Millions of Americans are getting an early preview of winter as a blast of Arctic air descends on the East Coast.

In fact, more than 270 cold-weather records have been shattered since Veterans Day, according to The Weather Channel. The National Weather Service blamed an "Arctic intrusion" for elbowing autumn out of the seasonal picture — and plunging the country directly into freezing season.

This winter wake-up call is setting record low temperatures across many locations from the Plains eastward to the East Coast and down into the Deep South, including the Gulf Coast and places like Houston and New Orleans.

"This will make it feel like in the middle of winter rather than in November for much of the eastern two-thirds of the country for the next few days," the National Weather Service had predicted.

A map showing the impact of the Arctic blast on the U.S. Arctic air will bring snow, freezing rain, gusty winds and some of the coldest temperatures of the season to the eastern U.S. (Photo: NOAA)

Along the way, the Arctic blast caused icy roads and massive traffic pileups, including one that involved 50 cars near Austintown, Ohio.

For many, it was the temperature drop as much as the temperatures that came as a shock. This post from the National Weather Service's Facebook page sums it up:

The last time things were this chilly across the board was in 1911, and the NWS posted the then-and-now maps on Twitter.

And yes, there's snow, at least around the Great Lakes, the northern Plains and northern Rockies and Cascades, according to the National Weather Service.

As the following video shows, parts of the country were already digging their way out of the first wave of snow earlier this week.

But if Americans can grit their teeth through the next few days, the grass may literally be greener on the other side of that cold snap. Accuweather predicts the Arctic bluster will be followed by a gradual return to more seasonable temperatures, at least in the South.

Just as summer temperatures held on, making us wonder what happened to autumn, fall's warmer temperatures will return once the freeze has passed through, followed by much-needed rain, particularly in drought-stricken places like Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.

Editor's note: This story has been updated since it was published earlier this week.

Arctic blast shatters records across the country
As much as two-thirds of the U.S could be plunged into record-breaking cold, but autumn isn't done yet.