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NOAA historical photo of ice stormDecember 7, 2000 — A severe Arctic cold outbreak is poised to sweep through the western and central United States, endangering large portions of the country, according to NOAA's National Weather Service. (Click image for larger view.)

"This cold air system is an example of the type of weather the United States can expect as we return to a normal winter," said retired Air Force Brigadier General Jack Kelly, director of NOAA's National Weather Service. "Because we are expecting variable and sometimes severe weather conditions this year, it is particularly important that people pay attention to weather forecasts and be prepared."

Abnormally cold temperatures are expected to reach the west and central parts of the United States beginning Dec. 9 and persist for at least a week. Widespread areas of snow and icy precipitation will potentially move into the Plateau, Rockies, and northern and central Great Plains early next week, following close on the heels of several fast moving winter snow systems, and creating dangerous conditions west of the Mississippi Valley and the western Great Lakes.

The system will likely reach much of California and Arizona the following week, adding to state officials' concerns over an ongoing shortage of electricity. California officials have declared a stage two electrical power emergency eight times in the past three weeks, and are urging conservation of electricity. A stage two emergency is declared when power reserves fall, or are expected to fall, below 5 percent. California has never had a statewide stage three emergency, which indicates reserves have fallen below 1.5 percent.

Damaging frost and freezes are also possible, and farmers should stay tuned to forecasts from the local National Weather Service offices for freeze warnings.

The Jet Stream, far north of its normal position over the Pacific Ocean, is ready to sweep across Alaska and western Canada before driving severe cold and considerable snow to the northern and central Rockies and the northern and central Great Plains beginning this Saturday and continuing through mid-December.

As the cold outbreak advances, areas west of the Mississippi River may receive sleet and freezing rain. The eastern and southeastern United States will experience above normal temperatures next week, before increasingly cold temperatures move into the northeast by the middle of December.

"Individual safety is based on up-to-the-minute knowledge of winter weather conditions," Kelly said. "People should stay tuned to local forecasts or NOAA Weather Radio. The National Weather Service also provides up-to-the-minute weather forecasts through its Web site: Have heating and food supplies available in the event that power is interrupted. The leading cause of death during winter storms is transportation accidents, so use public transportation whenever possible. Make sure your vehicle is in good order and stocked with emergency supplies if you must use it during a winter storm."

As the National Weather Service's October winter weather outlook predicted, the United States is experiencing a return to colder temperatures and increased precipitation that was largely forgotten in the past three years of relatively mild winters. November 2000 demonstrated this change by showing up as the second coldest November in the United States in 106 years of records, according to preliminary data.

The U.S. Department of Energy released numbers this week indicating that the average residential home owner will pay 44% more to heat their home this winter. If these increased costs represent a problem for homeowners, they may contact Department of Energy's home heating assistance hotline at 1-800-DIAL-DOE.

Relevant Web Sites
The following National Weather Service Web sites are available to provide up-to-the-minute winter weather information.

Current winter storm watches, warnings and temperatures across the United States

National forecasts that extend from three to 14 days in advance

Winter weather safety and preparedness tips to handle snow, ice, wind and bitter cold temperatures

Map showing the expected extent of the Arctic air over the United States

NOAA's Weather Page — includes latest satellite images and weather maps


NOAA Weather Radio

Media Contacts:
Curtis Carey or Susan Weaver, NOAA's National Weather Service, (301) 713-0622