Here comes an Arctic blast, record cold, and ... the Polar Vortex??!!

Hang on to your hats and break out your winter coats: An Arctic blast will bring frigid temperatures and howling winds across much of the central and eastern U.S. over the next few days.

Even more chilling, as we approach Thanksgiving, an unwelcome visitor at your table may soon be the season's first appearance of the infamous Polar Vortex. 

In the meantime, Arctic air "will sweep across the upper Midwest and Northeast into this weekend," AccuWeather meteorologist Paul Pastelok said. Record-challenging cold will be likely for many areas and cities will see their coldest temperatures so far this season, the Weather Channel said.

Overall, temperatures this weekend will be well below normal from the Ohio Valley to Maine and south to the Mid-Atlantic, the National Weather Service said. In fact, temperatures will be more typical of January than November.

Across the Northeast, "overnight temperatures this weekend will dip into the 20s, teens and single digits," AccuWeather meteorologist Brett Rossio said.

"A freeze watch is in effect for most of Virginia and northern North Carolina and a freeze warning is in effect for most of Maryland, Delaware and southern New Jersey," the weather service said. "Temperatures will likely severely damage or kill sensitive vegetation like vegetable gardens." 

Along with the cold will come some snow. Occasionally heavy snow will persist across the upper Great Lakes, especially in the favored locations downwind of Lake Superior and northern Lake Michigan, the weather service said.

By Sunday, a wintry mix is likely to reach the Detroit and Cleveland areas, according to AccuWeather.

 

Polar Vortex returns? 

Looking ahead toward Thanksgiving, signs are pointing toward a return of the Polar Vortex, which may also be accompanied by a significant storm with rain, snow and wind in the northeastern U.S., AccuWeather said. 

The Polar Vortex, lest we forget, is a large area of cold air high up in the atmosphere that normally lives over the poles (as its name suggests) but — thanks to a meandering jet stream — parts of the vortex can slosh down into North America, helping to funnel unspeakably cold air into the central and eastern U.S.

Though the vortex itself has been around for a few billion years and understood by scientists for several decades, it only entered the popular lexicon as a synonym for miserably cold weather a few years ago.