The coldest air of the winter is gripping much of the eastern United States and will hit single-digit and sub-zero temperatures across the Northeast over the weekend.
Following a month with temperatures averaging 5-10 degrees Fahrenheit above normal during the first ten days, temperatures through Sunday will be held 10-30 degrees below normal. Temperatures will be 30 degrees lower this weekend, compared to last weekend’s high.
Officials warned residents to stay indoors in the face of the -9 degree Fahrenheit temperatures, which felt as cold as -40 degrees Fahrenheit with the wind chill.
“It’s fair to say that this is a historic Arctic outbreak for the modern era,” the National Weather Service said in a morning forecast update.
A polar vortex is a storm that is typically centered near the North Pole and tends to keep the coldest air trapped in northern Canada. Occasionally, this storm weakens or shifts enough to allow frigid air to plummet southward into the United States. This particular polar vortex is sending a dose of frigid air southward beyond the borders of Canada. Some of the air will flow directly southward from eastern Canada and avoid any warming effects of the milder waters of the Great Lakes.
Officials warned people to stay indoors, away from what the National Weather Service described as “life-threatening” cold. Wind chill advisories were in effect over parts of nine states extending from northern Pennsylvania to western Maine, with forecasters expecting gusts up to 45 miles per hour.
“Wind chills will be getting colder and colder as the day goes on,” said Alan Dunham, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Taunton, Massachusetts.
The cold air will be dangerous for those spending time outdoors not properly dressed. In addition to the dangers of frostbite and hypothermia, the magnitude of the cold air can cause unprotected pipes to burst, water mains to rupture, and batteries to die in vehicles.
N.Y.C Mayor Bill de Blasio said officials had added extra staff to help respond to residents who had lost their heat, and expanded efforts to bring homeless people into shelters.
“It’s so important to take this seriously, to stay indoors to the maximum extent possible, go out for as little time as possible. Do not have skin exposed. These are tough conditions,” de Blasio told reporters. “Be really careful.”
He ordered construction crews to put cranes into secure positions following the collapse of a huge crane in high winds earlier this month, which killed one person and injured three.
The direct shot of arctic air will yield below-zero temperatures on one or more nights from the central Appalachians and over to much of New England, including Boston, through Sunday night.
Lows in the single digits to near zero hit parts of northern and western Virginia and the Interstate 95 corridor of the mid-Atlantic, including New York City during Motzoei Shabbos.
Record lows were broken across a large portion of the Northeast including Boston and Pittsfield, Massachusetts, New York City, Albany, Syracuse, and Watertown, New York.
In some cases temperatures dipped to their lowest levels in decades on Sunday morning.
According to AccuWeather Meteorologist Edward Vallee, “High temperatures in the I-95 mid-Atlantic corridor will struggle to reach the lower 20s on Sunday and may not reach 10 over the interior.”
Wind and other factors will make it feel even colder. Temperatures will feel 10-20 degrees Fahrenheit lower than the actual temperature at times.
“While the temperature may get as low as last winter in some places this weekend, the cold air will not linger like it did last winter,” according to AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Elliot Abrams. “Temperatures will rebound over much of the East to start the new week.”