A life-threatening cold spell began to ease its grip on the northeastern United States on Saturday, but only after a new national windchill record was set in New Hampshire.
The record was set at Mount Washington Friday night when it felt like minus 108° F thanks to a temperature of minus 46° F and wind gusts of 127 mph.
Wind chill records are not historically tracked as closely as temperature records, but the mark would beat what most meteorologists believe to be the US record (minus 105° F in Alaska). The prior record for Mount Washington was minus 102.7° F in 2004.
Early Saturday, about 15 million people in the United States were under wind chill alerts, but that number dropped to less than 1 million by midday as the extreme cold began to wrap up. The majority of the remaining wind chill alerts will end by 7 p.m. ET Saturday as temperatures begin to stabilize and winds die down.
Temperatures will rebound 5 to 10 degrees above normal on Sunday.
Several daily low-temperature records were set across portions of the Northeast on Saturday morning, according to local National Weather Service offices.
Boston hit a morning low temperature of minus 10 degrees Saturday morning, breaking its previous daily record of minus 2 degrees. The weather service also tweeted that it is the first double-digit negative temperature recorded since 1957.
Worcester, Massachusetts, hit minus 13 degrees beating the previous daily record of minus 4. Providence, Rhode Island, recorded minus 9 degrees beating the previous daily record of minus 2. Hartford, Connecticut, hit minus 9 degrees, beating the previous daily record of minus 8.
Government leaders urged people to stay inside if at all possible.
“Our state is facing dangerously cold temperatures & extreme wind chills today & tomorrow,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said Friday morning on Twitter. “We are coordinating with local officials to ensure they have what they need to keep New Yorkers safe. Please limit time outdoors, wear layers, & use caution with alternative heat sources.”
Northern Maine feels the freeze
The dangerously cold winds are descending on the region from Canada, putting entire states at risk. The worst impacts are expected in northern Maine – where about 70,000 people in Penobscot and Aroostook counties are under blizzard warnings through Saturday evening, according to the National Weather Service.
“Ground blizzard conditions in heavy blowing snow are expected today through Saturday across open areas. Please to not drive if you don’t have to!” the weather service in Caribou, Maine, said.
Maine State Police shared photos of deteriorating road conditions in Aroostook County on Friday and warned drivers that any area across the state with open fields and snow can expect periods of “blinding whiteouts.”
“One of the beauties of the County is (its) open fields and views but on days like this they become a hazard. Drive safe. What looks like safe and normal driving conditions quickly deteriorate into almost zero visibility stretches of roadway,” Maine State Police said in a Facebook post.
In addition to the blizzard conditions, parts of northern Maine on Friday night felt as cold as minus 69 degrees, with many other areas seeing their winds feel as bitterly cold as between minus 35 degrees to minus 50 degrees, according to the weather service in Caribou.
The local weather service also reported some power outages in Maine, where water inside trees froze, expanded and caused trees to snap and knock down power lines – though impacts did not appear extensive or widespread Friday.
Freezing temperatures this week have not only affected the Northeast. Farther south, severe cold weather also led to ongoing power outages across Texas and Arkansas as an ice storm lashed the region, killing at least eight people.
About 130,000 homes and businesses in Texas were still in the dark early Saturday stemming from multiple rounds of ice, sleet and freezing rain that made roads deadly and weighed down trees, also causing them to break and take down power lines. In Arkansas, more than 36,000 homes and businesses were experiencing outages early Saturday, according to the tracking site Poweroutage.us.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration on Saturday for several counties that have been impacted by the ice storm, and additional counties may be included after damage assessments are conducted, the governor’s office said.
“The State of Texas has provided all assistance requested throughout the severe weather this week, and we continue to ensure that communities across our state have the resources and support they need to recover from the winter weather event,” according to a news release from Abbott’s office.
The ice storm has caused “widespread property damage, hazardous travel disruptions, and localized power outages,” the release said.
Aid to those experiencing homelessness
Amid the ongoing dangerous cold in the Northeast, New York City issued a “cold blue” Friday evening, the city’s Department of Homeless Services said on Twitter.
The designation generally indicates temperatures have reached an extremely low threshold that requires them to make resources available to the public. Under that code, people may use the city’s homeless shelter system on an emergency basis and directs New Yorkers to report people on the street as a safety measure.
“No one who is experiencing homelessness and seeking shelter in New York City during a Code Blue will be denied,” a spokesperson for the department said.
New York City is forecast to see single-digit temperatures, with the coldest point coming Saturday morning at 8 degrees and winds could feel as cold as 7 degrees below zero.
“Homeless outreach teams will be talking to any New Yorker on the street and offering them warm shelter,” the city said Friday in a tweet.
In Erie County – home to Buffalo – officials also issued a “code blue” and opened three overnight shelters in the county and daytime warming centers.
Warming centers have also opened across Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Vermont, officials said.
In New Hampshire, where the coldest winds could feel as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit below zero, Cannon Mountain Ski Resort in Franconia and Wildcat Mountain in Gorham have closed due to the severe cold, according to their Facebook pages.
Similarly, several ski areas turned away customers and shut down operations in Vermont on Friday.