Frigid cold sets sight on the South, may bring ice below Mason-Dixon line
ATLANTA (CNN) — The Deep South and winter don't play nice together. Throw frozen precipitation into the mix and you have a real mess.
The same brutal arctic cold front that's already delivered sub-zero temperatures across the upper Midwest and Northeast is forecast to bring ice and freezing rain to the South and Mid-Atlantic states on Friday.
Southern cities like Atlanta are not prepared for wintry weather because it comes so seldom. Southern drivers have little experience driving on the stuff.
An ice storm in December 2010 resulted in hundreds of accidents across metro Atlanta. Many motorists just ditched their cars and gave up.
The National Weather Service expects widespread accumulations of up to a quarter inch of ice across parts of five states: Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia and North and South Carolina.
How cold is it?
Folks who live in the Upper Midwest, who have been dealing with temperatures below zero are likely to have little sympathy.
"It is going to warm up to 20 by the first of next week and I can't wait," said Minnesota resident Margaret Davis in a comment on a CNN story.
Thursday morning commuters in Minneapolis can expect to brave -10 degree F.
But as with most things, the cold is a matter of perspective ... or one-upsmanship.
"Temperatures as meager as -40 seems absurd," said reader Ben Edwards. "That's what one would call a warm day up here in Fairbanks, Alaska."
Cold weather tricks
The drop in temperature provided many with the opportunity to conduct some unusual experiments.
Several readers sent in submissions to CNN's iReport where they demonstrated the effects of the weather by tossing boiling water into the air and watching as the mist particles froze midair.
A reporter with CNN affiliate KVLY in Fargo-Grand Forks, North Dakota, used a frozen banana to hammer a nail. It worked.
Others took soaking wet T-shirts, draped them on hangers and watched as the cold air quickly froze them stiff.
The cold weather was good news for those who sell hot coffee for a living.
"On days like this, coffee sells. Bagels don't," said Sami Akramia, a 41-year-old food cart worker bundled up in Midtown Manhattan as the temperature dropped to 4 degrees Wednesday.
National Weather Service forecasters say they expect the cold weather to last throughout the week and urged caution.
The frigid weather can have deadly consequences.
Authorities say exposure to sub-freezing temperatures left at least three people dead in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois.
"Those people who work outside have to be careful," CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said Wednesday. "We feel the wind chill, and so do pets. You need to find some place indoors and out of the wind for them."
Chicago firefighters learned the hard way Wednesday as they battled a warehouse fire. The water used to fight the flames encased the building's shell in inches of ice.
In New York and New Jersey, homes destroyed by Superstorm Sandy in places such as New Dorp, Staten Island, and Far Rockaway, Queens, lacked basic utilities needed to restore heat.
In the northern Maine town of Presque Isle, temperatures hung around 24 below Fahrenheit. And in Grand Forks, North Dakota, residents bundled up to stave off a potentially deadly wind chill that hovered even lower, around 33 below.
"The biggest thing is staying out of the wind. That's what kills you," said Michael Lannen, who works at a Menards hardware store in Grand Forks.
"It seems we get one of these kinds of weeks every year, so everyone is just trying to bundle up and stay indoors."
CNN's David Ariosto, Christina Zdanowicz, Daphne Sashin and Rachel Rodriguez contributed to this report.