Polar vortex to bring 'coldest air for more than a decade' to Northeast

Polar Vortex: Brutally Cold Temps for 65M Americans This Weekend

Forget the Valentine's Day roses if you're stuck in the Northeast this weekend — give your sweetie a sweater instead. They'll need it.

A "life threatening" icy blast is expected to put a big chill on the romance for millions of Americans with the coldest temperatures to hit the region in over a decade, forecasters warned Friday.

The National Weather Service said the mercury will start dipping Saturday, but the coldest air would not arrive until Sunday morning — with several cities facing the prospect of subzero temperatures.

"For people stepping outside on Sunday morning, it's going to be like walking into a freezer," said Weather Channel Lead Forecaster Michael Palmer. "This will be the coldest air for more than a decade for much of the Northeast."

Click through for photos from Winter Storm Jonas:

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#Blizzard2016 aka Winter Storm Jonas slams the east coast
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Polar vortex to bring 'coldest air for more than a decade' to Northeast

A massive winter storm system pummeled the eastern United States in late January 2016, with two low-pressure systems merging into a potent nor’easter that dropped heavy snow from Virginia to New England. By late afternoon on Jan. 23, snowfall totals were approaching records in several states, and hurricane-force winds were battering the coastlines and leading to serious flooding. The storm was expected to continue through the morning of Jan. 24.

The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite acquired this image of the storm system at 2:15 a.m. EST on Jan. 23. It was composed through the use of the VIIRS “day-night band,” which detects faint light signals such as city lights, moonlight, airglow, and auroras. In the image, the clouds are lit from above by the nearly full Moon and from below by the lights of the heavily populated East Coast. The city lights are blurred in places by cloud cover.

(Photo via NASA)

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 23: A woman walks in strong winds and heavy snow fall in Central Park on January 23, 2016 in New York City. A major Nor'easter is hitting much of the East Coast and parts of the South as forecasts warn of up to two feet of snow in some areas. (Photo by Astrid Riecken/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A man use a skiing on a snow covered street in Manhattan in New York on January 23, 2016. A deadly blizzard with bone-chilling winds and potentially record-breaking snowfall slammed the eastern US on January 23, as officials urged millions in the storm's path to seek shelter -- warning the worst is yet to come. US news reports said at least eight people had died by late Friday from causes related to the monster snowstorm, which is expected to last until early Sunday. / AFP / KENA BETANCUR (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A pedestrian walks in the center of a snow-covered residential street in Washington, DC on January 23, 2016. A deadly blizzard with bone-chilling winds and potentially record-breaking snowfall slammed the eastern US on January 23, as officials urged millions in the storm's path to seek shelter -- warning the worst is yet to come. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

January 22, 2016

Scott Kelly ‏(@StationCDRKelly): Massive #snowstorm blanketing #EastCoast clearly visible from @Space_Station! Stay safe! #blizzard2016 #YearInSpace

TOPSHOT - A man lays in a pile of snow in Times Square on January 23, 2016 in New York. A deadly blizzard with bone-chilling winds and potentially record-breaking snowfall slammed the eastern US on January 23, as officials urged millions in the storm's path to seek shelter -- warning the worst is yet to come. US news reports said at least eight people had died by late Friday from causes related to the monster snowstorm, which is expected to last until early Sunday. / AFP / Don EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
CAPE MAY, NEW JERSEY - JANUARY 23: Waves crash on the beach on January 23, 2016 in Cape May, New Jersey. A major snowstorm is upon the East Coast this weekend with some areas expected to receive over a foot of snow. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 22: Nuns from the Fraternite Notre-Dame in Chicago, Illinois are covered in newly fallen snow as they walk along Constitution Avenue while snow begins to accumulate January 22, 2016 in Washington, DC. A major snowstorm is forecasted for the East Coast this weekend with some areas expected to receive up to 1-2 feet of snow. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Snow covers cars parked in Washington on January 23, 2016. A deadly blizzard with bone-chilling winds and potentially record-breaking snowfall slammed the eastern US on Saturday, as officials urged millions in the storm's path to seek shelter -- warning the worst is yet to come. US news reports said at least eight people had died by late Friday from causes related to the monster snowstorm, which is expected to last until early Sunday. / AFP / Mladen ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A man pushing a snow plough during a snowstorm January 22, 2016 in New York. / AFP / FRANCOIS XAVIER MARIT (Photo credit should read FRANCOIS XAVIER MARIT/AFP/Getty Images)
A man walks on snow covered Thomas Circle in Washington on January 23, 2016. A deadly blizzard with bone-chilling winds and potentially record-breaking snowfall slammed the eastern US on Saturday, as officials urged millions in the storm's path to seek shelter -- warning the worst is yet to come. US news reports said at least eight people had died by late Friday from causes related to the monster snowstorm, which is expected to last until early Sunday. / AFP / Mladen ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 22: A snowplow cleans up snow on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the U.S. Capitol January 22, 2016 in Washington, DC. A winter snowstorm is forecasted for the East Coast this weekend with prediction of up to 30 inches of snow for the DC area. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - The White House is seen during a snowstorm in Washington January 22, 2016. Thousands of flights were cancelled and supermarket shelves were left bare Friday as millions of Americans hunkered down for a winter storm expected to dump historic amounts of snow in the eastern United States. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - People cross 15ht Street during a snowstorm in Washington January 22, 2016. Thousands of flights were cancelled and supermarket shelves were left bare Friday as millions of Americans hunkered down for a winter storm expected to dump historic amounts of snow in the eastern United States. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
A Homeless covers from the snow in Central park on January 23, 2016 in New York. A deadly blizzard with bone-chilling winds and potentially record-breaking snowfall slammed the eastern US on Saturday, as officials urged millions in the storm's path to seek shelter -- warning the worst is yet to come. US news reports said at least eight people had died by late Friday from causes related to the monster snowstorm, which is expected to last until early Sunday. / AFP / KENA BETANCUR (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)
A man walks past a restaurant during a snowstorm January 22, 2016 in Washington, DC. Thousands of flights were cancelled and supermarket shelves were left bare Friday as millions of Americans hunkered down for a winter storm expected to dump historic amounts of snow in the eastern United States. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
CHAPEL HILL, NC - JANUARY 22: Vehicles move along Interstate 40 as an overhead sign indicates 'Winter Weather Warning In Effect' during a winter storm on January 22, 2016 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. A major snowstorm is forecasted for the East Coast this weekend with some areas getting a possible one to two feet of snow. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
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Boston's forecast low of 2 below zero looked relatively balmy compared to the outlook for 9 below zero in Hartford, Connecticut. Albany was forecast to experience 10 below zero, with 11 below possible in Worcester, Massachusetts, according to The Weather Channel.

While New York City was not expected to see sub-zero temperatures, the forecast for Saturday night is a frosty 1 degree, according to the National Weather Service. That would match the coldest temperature in New York City this century. It hasn't sunk to zero since Jan. 27, 1994.

An Ice Festival, featuring live ice carving, scheduled for Saturday in Central Park was even canceled, ironically because of the expected cold, according to festival officials.

Polar Vortex Will Bring Deep Freeze to the East Coast

"New Yorkers should take this weather very seriously," said New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. "These are not temperatures we see often." The mayor activated "Code Blue" status, which mobilizes the Department of Homeless Services to lead an "aggressive outreach effort" to make sure the city's homeless are off the streets.

Meanwhile, the New York City Department of Buildings advised property owners to secure cranes, as winds were forecast to gust at 45 mph. A crane in the city collapsed last week, leaving one person dead, but it was unclear if wind caused the catastrophe.

Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Hartford, Connecticut, and Albany, New York, also have the potential to set records over the weekend.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority warned that trains might be stalled because of mechanical issues caused by the cold. And the U.S. Coast Guard urged the Massachusetts and Rhode Island fishing flees to take extreme caution out on the water.

Wind chills are expected to plummet 20 to 40 degrees below zero across the region, with the National Weather Service issuing a patchwork of warnings and watches. It said conditions "will result in frostbite and lead to hypothermia or death if precautions are not taken."

Blame the bitter cold on the polar vortex, a large cyclone that sits above the North Pole all year round. A "piece" of this weather system has broken off and traveled south, Palmer said.

Bundle Up! Polar Vortex Will Chill the Northeast


The Midwest will feel the chill on Friday — with forecast lows of 7 below zero in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and 2 below zero in Chicago. The icy blast will move through the Great Lakes on Friday night and into the Northeast on Saturday.

That will be followed by a snowstorm that is forecast to move through the Midwest on Sunday and into the Northeast on Monday — although meteorologists say it is too early to predict the storm's exact path or power.

While the East is likely to be locked in a freezer the whole weekend, things will be balmy out West with temperatures in 80s and 90s in California, Arizona and elsewhere, according to forecasters.

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