ATLANTA — Brutal, record-breaking cold descended on the East and South, sending the mercury plummeting Tuesday into the single and teen digits from Boston and New York to Atlanta, Nashville and Birmingham — places where many people know almost nothing about freezing weather.
The morning weather map for the eastern half of the U.S. looked like an algebra worksheet — lots of small, negative numbers. In fact, the Midwest and the East were colder than much of Antarctica.
The deep freeze started in the Midwest over the weekend and spread east, blanketing about half of the country. In New York City, the high was expected to be 10; in Boston, around 18.
Birmingham, Ala., dipped to a low of 7, shattering the record for the date of 11 degrees, set in 1970. In Atlanta, which saw a record low of 6 degrees, fountains froze over, pipes burst and cars wouldn't start.
"This is severely cold for these parts," said Brian Lynn, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Peachtree City, Ga. "Single digits are a rare event."
Farther south in Pensacola, Fla., a Gulf Coast city better known for its white sand beaches than frost, streets normally filled with joggers, bikers and people walking dogs were deserted early Tuesday as temperatures remained in the teens after sunrise. Monica Anderson and Tommy Howard jumped up and down and blew on their hands while they waited for a bus, struggling to stay warm.
Anderson said she couldn't it recall it ever being so cold.
"I'm not used to it. It is best just to stay inside until it gets better," said Anderson, who had to get out for early morning appointment with her doctor.
A sign on a bank near the bus stop flashed 19 degrees at around 8 a.m. Patches of ice sparkled in parking lots where puddles froze overnight.