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Winter ‘bomb cyclone’ threatens East Coast, bringing temps colder than Mars

Freezing rain, sleet and snow will fall along the Southeast on Wednesday -- and lead the way for a brutal winter storm that is expected to strengthen rapidly as it moves toward the Northeast.

(CNN) — A massive “bombogenesis” — an area of rapidly declining low pressure — will wreak havoc on the Northeast this week, threatening hurricane-force winter wind gusts in a region already crippled by deadly cold.

The bombogenesis will result in what’s known as a “bomb cyclone.” And the bomb cyclone, expected to strike Thursday, will likely dump 6 to 12 inches of snow in New England and hurl 40- to 60-mph gusts.

By the end of this week, parts of the Northeast will be colder than Mars.

At Mount Washington Observatory in New Hampshire, the temperature will plunge to -35 degrees Friday night into Saturday, weather observer Taylor Regan said. At last check, the high temperature on Mars was -2 degrees Fahrenheit.

But it’s not just New England suffering winter’s wrath. Freezing rain, sleet and snow are smothering parts of the Southeast on Wednesday.

Florida gets walloped with snow

From Maine to Florida, every East Coast state has at least one weather advisory, winter storm watch, winter storm warning or blizzard warning. That’s 1,500 miles of severe weather alerts.

In Tallahassee, Florida, Ernst Beliard said he’s never seen snow in his 21 years there.

“Yo its actually snowing in Tallahassee,” he tweeted.

Indeed, Tallahassee had not seen measurable snowfall since 1989, CNN meteorologist Michael Guy said.

Track severe weather across the country

The unusually frigid conditions sweeping Florida led to the closures of Florida State University and Florida A&M University on Wednesday.

They also forced the temporary closures of Orlando water parks and prompted authorities to open dozens of emergency shelters.

In Pensacola, water fountains turned into ice sculptures.

Deep freeze across South Carolina

In the Palmetto State, palm trees will likely be covered in ice and snow — and could knock down power lines, the National Weather Service in Charleston said.

“Forecasters expect below freezing temperatures to last for much of the week throughout the entire state,” South Carolina Emergency Management said.

Charleston is slated to get 4 inches of snow late Wednesday. That would be the most in one day since 1989, CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller said.

Runways at Charleston International Airport closed Wednesday, and South Carolina Highway Patrol reported dozens of accidents as snow fell.

Authorities urged people to stay off the streets as 1,000 snow plows and salt trucks treated roads and bridges, the state’s department of transportation said.

States of emergency in Georgia

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal issued a state of emergency Tuesday for 28 coastal counties ahead of the storm.

Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport — typically booming with tourists this time of year — closed Wednesday “due to severe winter weather conditions,” the airport said.

But the entire state is suffering bitter conditions. In the south-central city of Tifton, Matthew Stuart Reid shot drone footage of the snowfall, set to the music of “Winter Wonderland.”

Deadly freeze

At least 12 people in the US have died this week in cold-related deaths, officials said.

Six deaths were reported in Wisconsin, four in Texas, one in North Dakota and one in Missouri.

The Texas deaths included two homeless people in Houston who were exposed to freezing conditions, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo tweeted.

Single-digit temps in the Northeast

New York City hasn’t warmed up above freezing since Christmas — and the deep freeze will just get worse.

The bombogenesis will help usher in another round of blustery single-digit temperatures to the Northeast.