More than 20 million people in the Northeast will continue enduring a brief, yet life-threatening, cold spell this weekend as temperatures feeling well below zero are delivered across the region.
The wind chill warnings and advisories encompassing all of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut are likely to continue through Saturday morning. Nearly all of the state of New York and northern counties in Pennsylvania are also threatened by plunging temperatures.
Until higher temperatures arrive Sunday, officials across multiple states have urged the public to hunker down indoors and opened shelters and warming centers to provide some aid to those who need it, particularly for vulnerable groups experiencing homelessness.
“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.”
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, Mainesaid.
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.
On Friday night, a new national record for lowest wind chill temperature was likely recorded at the tallest peak in the Northeast, Mount Washington in New Hampshire, with a reported wind chill of minus 108 degrees Fahrenheit – thanks to a temperature of minus 46 and wind gusts of 127 mph. Wind chill records are not historically tracked as closely as temperature records, but the mark would beat other lows set.
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 150,000 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 35,000 homes and businesses were experiencing outages early Saturday, according to the tracking site Poweroutage us.
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.