(Reuters) - Bitterly cold weather will usher in the new year for much of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains this weekend, bringing record low temperatures to the Midwest, making travel difficult and putting a chill on New Year's Eve celebrations.
The mercury in New York City's Times Square was expected to drop to about 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 12 Celsius) with a wind chill at nearly 0 F (minus 18C) during the final hours of 2017, the National Weather Service said, testing the willpower of hundreds of thousands of New Year's Eve revellers.
In the heartland, next week could bring low temperatures last recorded 130 years ago to parts of Nebraska, said David Eastlack, a meteorologist with the weather service. That includes a record low for the date of minus 22F (minus 30C) for Tuesday.
"The bitter cold is going to be dangerous," he said in a phone interview, warning residents of eastern Nebraska and western Iowa to avoid venturing outside or taking a car trip. He said that the wind chills will be near minus 35F (minus 37C), a level when frostbite could set in within 10 minutes.
The weather service predicted lows would hit minus 20F to minus 30F (minus 7C to -34C) from Montana into the Dakotas and Minnesota, well below average.
Temperatures could drop to around 0 F (minus 18C) as far south as the northern border of Oklahoma on New Year's Day, and into the minus 30s near the Canadian border on Sunday and Monday, the service said.
The arctic air from Canada will also bring subfreezing temperatures to U.S. Gulf Coast cities such as Biloxi, Mississippi.
Icy roads will make travel difficult over much of the United States, from the south-central states of Texas and Oklahoma and eastward over Arkansas, northern Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama through the New Year's weekend, the private AccuWeather forecasting service said.
Weather was expected to remain much more mild on the West Coast, with temperatures forecast in the low 70s in Los Angeles over the next few days.
(Reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; editing by Diane Craft and Jonathan Oatis)