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Big chill blowing into S.C. today

Frosty weather is on the way to South Carolina.

The coldest air in nearly a year will begin to settle over the Midlands today and continue through next week as an Arctic high moves across the eastern U.S.

Forecasters say there isn't much chance of snow, but the clear, frigid weather is sure to get people's attention.

Temperatures could drop to 17 degrees Monday morning and reach no higher than the 40s for daytime highs through the week, according to the National Weather Service. Lows will be in the teens and low 20s through Thursday.

"Getting down into the teens is significantly below normal," said Mike Cammarata, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Columbia.

Normal high temperatures this time of year in Columbia are about 55, with lows of about 35. Today's forecast is for sunny skies with a high of 42.

Cammarata said South Carolina periodically gets colder-than-normal weather, but temperatures usually warm up within a few days. In this case, it could be next weekend before daytime highs even reach the 50s, weather forecasts show.

The bone-chilling weather results from an Arctic high affecting most of the South. That Arctic air is being affected by an upper-level low system over New England and eastern Canada that is influencing how long the cold sticks around.

Temperatures in the next week will be the lowest in the Columbia area since Jan. 17, 2009, when a low of 13 was recorded, Cammarata said.

Overall, cooler temperatures and wetter weather are expected in South Carolina through March, he said.

Cold will be the story across the state and the region during the next week. Football fans will be bundled up against the chill in Alabama today for South Carolina's bowl game against Connecticut.

Even coastal resorts that thrive on marketing balmy weather - such as Hilton Head Island - will feel the cold, with lows in the 20s.

People should take precautions by dressing warmly. They also should make sure outdoor pets and sensitive plants are kept inside, experts say.

"Hands down, people have to try and bring their pets in," said Franny Gerthoffer, executive director of the Hilton Head Humane Association.

People also should plan to wrap water pipes or let the pipes drip at night to keep them from freezing, experts say. Broken pipes occur in cold weather when water freezes inside the pipes and expands, causing cracks and ruptures, said Julius Mack of Franklin D. Plumbing.

If temperatures dip as low as forecast, Mack said he expects plenty of calls from people seeking help with broken lines. That often means having plumbing companies turn their water off to prevent damage to homes.

"Some people will be out of water for days," he said. "We kind of warn any of our customers we talk to, to just leave your water running slightly. That will keep it from freezing."

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