How El Nino helped create severe winter weather in Northeast Florida and beyond

Teeth-chattering cold weather is headed to North Florida, and it is already responsible for major disruptions in some parts of the United States. It’s creating chaos for travelers, football fans, and even voters in the Iowa Caucus. This brutal arctic blast is expected to impact 79% of the country, in states from Oregon to Mississippi to Florida.

At the Jacksonville International Airport on Monday at lunchtime, dozens of flight delays, cancellations, and traveling headaches are being blamed mostly on an arctic blast that’s blanketing more than two-thirds of the U.S.

“It’s bad,” Henry Swenson said, who traveled from Boston. “Some of the worst damage I’ve seen. I’m a storm chaser so I’ve seen some pretty bad damage across New England, but this is definitely up there.”

From a historic winter storm in Maine to plunging temperatures across 79% of the country, winter is back with a vengeance this year and weather experts said the El Nino pattern is playing a huge part.

“During this El Nino season, we’ve been seeing these very progressive storm systems bringing these rain chances followed by some cold weather about every three to four days,” Angela Enyedi of the National Weather Service said. “So it’s happening a little bit more frequently during an El Nino winter for us than what we would typically see if we weren’t in an El Nino winter pattern.”

Enyedi said the high-pressure system of extremely cold temperatures is making its way southward from the Arctic and spilling into large swaths of the Central and Eastern United States. Enyedi said the El Nino pattern is also responsible for above-average rainfall. It also spawned the severe weather and tornadoes that wreaked havoc on North Florida just last week.

“As we get into January, February, March timeframe and even in the February timeframe is when we can have some of our more notable severe weather outbreaks including tornado events across the state of Florida during these more active El Nino winter years,” Enyedi said.

Enyedi said since Dec. 1, 2023, North Florida has experienced five inches of rainfall above normal, adding that typically we experience one storm in the El Nino season every five to seven days. The winter weather has left more than 100,000 people without electricity in states like Oregon, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Unfortunately, North Florida will not escape the grip of the brutal cold.

“Near-normal temperatures for us this time of year would be highs in the mid-60s and lows in the low-40s,” Enyedi said. “So what we’re looking for with this arctic blast is Tuesday night. Our temperatures falling to the upper 20s inland across Duval County to nearly 30 on the coast.”

Enyedi added that those cold temperatures are going to combine with some pretty strong winds overnight to create wind chills. Wednesday morning will be in the teens across inland areas to the mid-20s toward the coast.

More than 100 million people were under wind chill advisories and warnings as of yesterday. The National Weather Service has already issued a hard freeze warning for North Florida, starting Tuesday night.

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