Season's first arctic blast brings subzero temperatures to plains

The first arctic blast of the season has hit mainland United States, blanketing parts of the Rockies and Plains with subzero temperatures early Thursday.

But meteorologists are warning about a second, perhaps even colder freeze that could spread as into the East Coast and possibly portions of the South late next week. A shift in a weather system known as the Polar Vortex may be partially to blame, according to The Weather Channel.

For now, parts of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and the Dakotas were bearing the worst of it, with temperatures as low as minus 14 overnight.

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LAKEWOOD, CO - FEBRUARY 02: Anastasiya Calkins walks through snow covered trees at Belmar Park in Lakewood, February, 02, 2016. Snow continues to fall in the area. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
LAKEWOOD, CO - FEBRUARY 02: People try to push a car that got stuck along Colfax Avenue in Lakewood, February, 02, 2016. Snow continues to fall in the area. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
LAKEWOOD, CO - FEBRUARY 02: Eric Serrano, left, and Art Tellez puts on chains on their garbage truck, February, 02, 2016. The two garbage men were sliding all over the road when they decided to chain up for the rest of their route in Lakewood. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
LAKEWOOD, CO - FEBRUARY 02: Snow continues to fall as Rob Smith clears his driveway outside his home in Lakewood, February, 02, 2016. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
LAKEWOOD, CO - FEBRUARY 02: Snow continues to fall as morning traffic makes its way along 6th Avenue in Lakewood, February, 02, 2016. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
LAKEWOOD, CO - FEBRUARY 02: Snow continues to fall as morning traffic makes its way along 6th Avenue in Lakewood, February, 02, 2016. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - February 02: Icicles form on a porch awning near Colorado Blvd and Cornell Ave during a heavy snowstorm February 02, 2016. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - February 02: Exhausted from shoveling sidewalks, Tre Schlegel, 5, left, and his father Jon, make snow angels in their front yard near Warren Ave and Madison St. during a heavy snowstorm February 02, 2016. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
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By Friday evening these frigid temperatures were expected to have swept most of the U.S. with temperatures in the 20s from Albuquerque to Buffalo, and from Atlanta to Seattle.

New York, Washington, D.C., and Boston were also expected to flirt with freezing temperatures Friday night.

"It's going to be a shock," said Kevin Roth, senior meteorologist at The Weather Channel. "The fall was closest to the warmest on record so this is really back to reality."

Although much less certain, a second wallop could be on its way late next week. After a brief reprieve following the weekend, temperatures could plunge into the minus next Friday in Midwestern cities such as Chicago and Minneapolis, into the teens across the North East and possibly back into the 20s in the South.

According to Roth, temperatures are expected to drop because of a shift in a stratospheric weather system known as the Polar Vortex.

This is usually based around the polar regions but sometimes affects temperatures further south if it becomes weakened or distorted. To what extent this actually happens will affect which regions are plunged into unseasonable cold temperatures next week.

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