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Only a few weeks into winter, there’s a reason why the season already seems epic: The Detroit area was the fifth-snowiest December on record.

Last month the region was blanketed with 221/2 inches of snow, according to climate records kept since 1880 by the National Weather Service.

The nearly 2 feet of snow last month is a stark difference from two years ago, when the Detroit area was the fifth snowless December on record.

But it pales in comparison to the Detroit area’s snowiest December on record — 34.9 inches in 1974 — when President Gerald Ford was in office.

The frigid temperatures in Detroit may have claimed a life: A man believed to be in his 50s was found dead in front of a church on the city’s east side in the early hours of 2018, and police believe he may have frozen to death.

The man’s body was found about 6 a.m. Monday near Shady Grove Missionary Baptist Church, on the 2700 block of McDougall, south of Charlevoix and east of Joseph Campau. A Detroit Police Department spokesman said officers arrived to find the man unresponsive. Medics responded, but he was declared dead at the scene. An official cause of death will be determined by the Wayne County Medical Examiner.

It will be very cold around Metro Detroit through next weekend, according to the National Weather Service.

Tuesday will be mostly sunny with a high of 15 degrees, while lows will get down to 2 degrees overnight. Wednesday could be the next chance of snow showers, with a high of 15 degrees and a low of 2.

Thursday will get even colder, with a high near 6 and a low of minus-1 overnight. The frigid temperatures continue through the weekend with highs of 4 on Friday and 8 on Saturday. Sunday brings a chance of snow, but warmer temperatures, in the mid-20s. Monday will see temperatures that get up to 31 degrees, but again, snow is possible.

The bone-chilling cold gripped much of the central U.S., breaking low temperature records, icing over some New Year’s celebrations and leading to at least two deaths attributed to exposure to the elements.

The National Weather Service issued wind chill advisories covering a vast area from South Texas to Canada and from Montana through New England. In Chicago, it was even too cold for those hearty enough to ring in the new year by jumping into Lake Michigan, where thick white steam rose from the water Monday morning.

Organizers of an annual Polar Plunge event threw in the towel because they say an arctic blast that pushed temperatures below zero made jumping into the lake too dangerous. Would-be plungers instead had their pictures taken while jumping on the frozen beach — in their swimsuits.

Dangerously low temperatures also enveloped several other Midwest states, including parts of Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska, along with nearly all of Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota.

In Nebraska, temperatures hit 15 below zero before midnight Sunday in Omaha, breaking a record low dating to 1884. Omaha officials cited the forecast in postponing the 18th annual New Year’s Eve Fireworks Spectacular that draws around 30,000 people.

It was colder in Des Moines, where city officials closed a downtown outdoor ice skating plaza and said it wouldn’t reopen until the city emerged from sub-zero temperatures. The temperature hit 20 below zero early Monday, with the wind chill dipping to negative 31 degrees.

The mercury also plunged to a record-breaking minus 32 in Aberdeen, South Dakota, where the previous New Year’s Day record had stood for 99 years.

It’s even cold in the Deep South, a region more accustomed to bursts of arctic air than night after night below zero. Frozen pipes and dead car batteries were concerns from Louisiana to Georgia as overnight temperatures in the teens were predicted across the region by Monday night.

Detroit News staff writer Kim Kozlowski and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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