Snow and Freezing Rain Foretell Brutal Winter Ahead

"Polar vortex" brings the coldest weather in 20 years

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Spencer Platt / Getty Images

A man walks his dog in Brooklyn, in New York City, on Jan. 3, 2014. A winter storm left up to 8 in. of snow in the city

An arctic blast plunged much of the Great Plains through the Great Lakes and even into the Deep South into freezing weather Sunday, hitting some of the coldest temperatures in almost 20 years.

Forecasters expect Winter Storm Ion to bring up to a foot of snow from Missouri to Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and southern Lower Michigan through Sunday morning, according to the National Weather Service. Meanwhile, rain will transition into a wintry mix of snow in parts of Kentucky, northern Arkansas, Tennessee, West Virginia, southwestern Pennsylvania and Ohio.

The chilling temperatures will also extend into the Deep South, bringing a cold front to northern Mississippi through northern Alabama and into northern Georgia throughout Sunday. New England residents are also bracing for a combination of sleet and freezing rain early Sunday before it gradually shifts to rain.

Sunday’s subzero or single-digit temperatures will greatly hinder travel, with more than 1,700 U.S. flights canceled, according to flight-tracking site As of 8:30 a.m. E.T., New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport was closed when a regional jet went off a runway. JFK was not expected to reopen for four hours, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Ion has been blamed for 16 deaths and more than 5,000 flight cancellations since Wednesday.

Though a deep freeze is gripping much of the Midwest, residents can expect temperatures to rise by Wednesday. However, the National Weather Service warns that the chilling temperatures can lead to frostbite or hypothermia in a matter of minutes.

[National Weather Service]