A commuter walks along Market Street in freezing temperatures Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014, in Philadelphia.
A commuter walks along Market Street in freezing temperatures Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014, in Philadelphia.

NEW YORK - 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

"Pretty much everybody, including the Southeast, will be entrenched in the cold," Burke said.

Parts of New York are measuring the season's first
Heavy snow covers the street in Buffalo, New York, Nov. 18, 2014.

In western New York, a storm brought as much as four feet (1.2 meters) of snow to some areas and prompted officials to call a state of emergency in three towns near Buffalo, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement.

A 135-mile (215-km) western stretch of the New York State Thruway was closed because of the snow, said Thruway Authority spokeswoman Christina Klepper.

High temperatures in northern parts of Pennsylvania and New Hampshire were expected to get only into the teens, according to the NWS. It said most mid-Atlantic states would barely get above freezing on Tuesday and Wednesday.

In the Southeast and South, temperatures were dropping to unseasonable lows.

"I can't stand it," said Robin Roy, 53, shivering underneath a rainbow-colored poncho while shopping at an outdoor market in Gulfport, Florida. "I've never liked the cold."

Record-setting lows for this date could arrive in northern Florida by nightfall, with temperatures dipping below 20 degrees F (-7 C) around Tallahassee and in the Panhandle, said Amy Godsey, a meteorologist with the state Division of Emergency Management.

In Muscle Shoals, Alabama, near Huntsville, the low for the day was expected to be a record 33 degrees F (1 C), breaking the previous low for this date of 36 degrees in 1903, NWS meteorologist Stephen Latimer said.

Huntsville too was expected to beat its cold record.

Typically, such cold is seen in late December through February, Burke 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.

In predictably brisk Milwaukee, the mercury was not likely to rise above 19 degrees (-7 C), breaking a record for this date set in 1872.

"You should embrace it," said Markeyta Walker, 30, standing near a Milwaukee bus with her face wrapped in a thick scarf.

"Dress warm in layers and be happy," she said.