Graphic courtesy NWS Morristown
NASHVILLE — Parts of Tennessee were facing the prospect of single-digit temperatures and wind chills as much as 15 to 18 degrees below zero as a mass of arctic air headed for the state Sunday afternoon.
The National Weather Service forecast called for plunging temperatures, with a high in Nashville reaching only 7 degrees by Monday morning. Swaths of western Tennessee were preparing for several inches of snow.
Morristown meteorologist Sam Roberts says the last time temperatures in East Tennessee hovered near zero was in 1996.
"It's pretty unusual," he said. "It's been about 20 years since we've seen these types of temperatures."
The National Weather Service says the arctic air is expected to remain through Tuesday.
Areas west of the plateau are expected to get 1 to 2 inches of snow while the upper Cumberland region and plateau could get 2 to 4 inches. Snowfall in West Tennessee is expected to be between 1 and 4 inches while much of East Tennessee will see 1 to 3 inches.
In Memphis, Drew Buchner went to Home Depot on Saturday to get a new plastic faucet cover because his German shepherd chewed through his Styrofoam cover.
"I'm getting ready," Buchner told The Commercial Appeal. "It's going to get real cold. I'm getting this hard (faucet cover) and if this doesn't work I'm going to wrap (the faucet) up with a towel and duct-tape it on there."
Six $30 heaters remained shortly after 1 p.m., but management said the faucet covers were the big seller.
Antoinette Katoe heard the weather predictions and grabbed some plastic faucet covers a year after her chow mix destroyed her foam covers.
"I think something's going to happen, especially with 15 degree weather," she said.
Forecasters warn travelers to be cautious as roadways could become snow-covered and slippery.
Some school districts have canceled classes Monday because of the forecast.
Cities such as Jackson, Humboldt, Paris and Union City could see wind chills in the range of minus 16 to minus 18 by Monday morning.
The weather was also taking its toll in airports across Tennessee. Flights to and from both Memphis and Nashville were either delayed or cancelled as the cold blast struck Chicago and cities like Detroit prepared for the weather.
Meanwhile, the Metro Nashville government said it was partnering with local organizations to make sure shelters were available for anyone who needed them.
"We want everyone to take necessary precautions to stay safe during this upcoming weather when temperatures overnight will dip well below freezing," Mayor Karl Dean said. "Metro is directing resources to support the nonprofit homeless shelters and agencies. Metro Police will be on special patrols to assist those exposed to the cold."
The record low in Nashville in 17 degrees below zero — Jan. 21, 1985, when 6 inches of snow covered the ground.
Officials in Memphis also were preparing for the freeze by providing shelters with more beds and mobilizing to distribute blankets, coats, hats and gloves to those in need.