By Laila Kearney
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Heavy snow and freezing temperatures blasted across the United States on Tuesday, with northeast towns declaring emergencies and southern states bracing for record cold.
The Arctic chill that swept through the Rocky Mountains last week arrived in the Northeast and would push southward by evening, said National Weather Service meteorologist Patrick Burke.
"Pretty much everybody, including the Southeast, will be entrenched in the cold," Burke said.
In western New York, a storm brought as much as four feet of snow to some areas and prompted government officials to call a state of emergency in three towns near Buffalo, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement.
A 135-mile stretch (217 km) of the New York State Thruway in the western part of the state was closed due to the snow, said Thruway Authority spokeswoman Christina Klepper.
More than 100 plow trucks worked to clear the snow aside and 37,000 tons of salt were poured to melt the freeze, the authority said.
Northern parts of Pennsylvania and New Hampshire were expected to see the highest temperatures of the day - merely in the teens, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). The service said most of the mid-Atlantic states would barely get above freezing Tuesday and Wednesday. I
In the South, temperatures were dropping to unseasonable lows.
In Muscle Shoals, Alabama, near Huntsville, the low for the day was expected to be 33 degrees F (1 C), colder than a record for the day set at 36 degrees in 1903, NWS meteorologist Stephen Latimer said.
Huntsville too was expected to beat its cold record, Latimer said.
While not unprecedented, the chilly weather was unusual for this time of year, Burke said.
Typically, such cold is seen in late December through February, he said.
He said the cold front would back off by the weekend, bringing warmer temperatures across the United States except for the Northern Rockies through the Great Plains and upper Midwest.
"For the rest of the nation, this Arctic grip will be releasing," Burke said.
(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Doina Chiacu)