East Tennesseans will be counting down minutes and degrees this New Year's Eve, as the coldest air so far this season drives temperatures to potentially dangerous levels.
Merchants around Knoxville's Market Square still expect revelers to defy the elements for a midnight countdown, according to WBIR. The National Weather Service's (NWS) local forecast office in Morristown recommends anyone venturing outdoors dress in warm layers.
"Consider bringing pets indoors and ensure livestock have adequate shelter," a statement from NWS Morristown read. "Check on neighbors, elderly, and homeless. Take the necessary precautions to protect water pipes from the extreme cold."
Knox Area Rescue Ministries says this week will be a "white flag," signaling conditions are too cold to remain outside for long periods. A post on KARM's Facebook page says the shelter will "...do what it does best - welcome people in."
The mild weather seen since December 1 made a quick exit shortly before Christmas, and even colder air arrived for New Year's weekend. Temperatures will be well below average, but above record-breaking levels. The cold air mass will also stick around for days, which is a bit less common.
"This is definitely a cold snap for the area," NWS Morristown meteorologist Derek Eisentrout said Sunday afternoon. "But how often do we get these week-long cold snaps? About every few years. That's the difference."
The cold air mass chilling Tennessee has a wide reach, over most of the eastern half of the country. Wind chill advisories have been issued for many Appalachian counties from northern Georgia to upstate New York. Hard freeze warnings from Alabama to eastern Texas indicate temperatures won't rise much above freezing until midweek.
Current forecasts from NWS Morristown show highs generally in the mid-20s and lows in the single-digits and teens through Friday. Overnight temperatures are not expected to break records. A brief break is expected Wednesday afternoon, Eisentrout said, before a reinforcement of cold air arrives late in the workweek. Long-range forecasts indicate somewhat milder air may return in the second week of the month.