BOSTON (AP) — Arctic air that descended over the northeast on Saturday brought dangerously cold freezing temperatures and wind chills to the region, including a record wind chill of minus 108 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 78 C) at the summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire.
Temperatures got so low that authorities in Massachusetts took the unusual step of keeping the South Station Transit Center open at night so homeless people would have a safe place to sleep. Several northeastern towns set or tied record high temperatures for the date, while high winds knocked a tree branch down on a car in western Massachusetts, killing a baby.
“I don’t remember it being that cold, not since 2015,” said Gin Koo, 36, wrapped in three shirts and a puffer jacket, as well as a hat and a hoodie, as he walked his Boston terrier, Bee, in Boston Saturday morning. Even Bee, wrapped in a dog coat, shivered. “I wouldn’t go out if I didn’t have to.”
Paul Butler, 45, homeless since his eviction in December 2021, took refuge in South Station.
“It’s the coldest I can remember, and I worked on the doorstep of several clubs for 15 years,” said the former Marine.
Arctic air reached the region just as a rapid cyclogenesis was developing over Labrador and Newfoundland, bringing strong winds, National Weather Service meteorologist Donald Dumont in Gray, Maine, said Friday. , explaining the drop in temperature.
A cyclogenesis refers to an intensification of a cyclone or low-pressure storm system.
The Mount Washington Observatory atop the tallest mountain in the northeast, famous for its extreme weather, also recorded an actual temperature of minus 47 (minus 44 C), tying an observatory record set in 1934 and a gust of wind of 127 mph (204 km/h).
In the rest of the region, wind chills – the combined effect of wind and cold air on exposed skin – dropped to minus 45 to minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 43 to minus 45 C), a reported the National Weather Service.
The current method for measuring wind chill has been in use since 2001.
In Southwick, Mass., on Friday, winds knocked down a tree branch on a vehicle driven by a 23-year-old woman from Winsted, Connecticut, according to the Hampden District Attorney’s Office. The driver was taken to hospital with serious injuries, but the baby died, authorities said.
Boston’s Pine Street Inn, New England’s largest homeless service provider, has stepped up outreach to people on the streets, doubling the number of vehicles that can transport people to shelters and opening its hall to provide additional space.
“On a night like last night, the biggest concern is people who have compromised their judgment,” President and CEO Lyndia Downie said Saturday of people with substance use disorders or of mental illness. “On those cold nights, they don’t think at 100% capacity. These are the people who worry us the most. »
The Massachusetts General Hospital emergency room treated several people for hypothermia overnight and a couple was admitted with frostbite.
“The reason people unfortunately end up with severe frostbite in most cases is simply because they don’t have a warm, safe place to go,” said Dr. Ali Raja, vice president of the emergency.
Boston; Providence, Rhode Island; Hartford, Connecticut; Worcester, Massachusetts; Albany, New York; and Glens Falls, New York, set or tied record temperatures for Feb. 4, according to the National Weather Service.
The cold has curtailed some traditional winter activities. Organizers of an annual Ice Castle attraction in North Woodstock, New Hampshire, have shortened the evening visitor schedule for Saturday night.
Erin Trotta from Massachusetts, who had already booked a tour, was still planning to go, but was taking extra steps to stay warm.
“We are ready to face the ice castles of the polar vortex. … Snow pants, thick winter coats, hand and foot warmers, face masks, the kind where only your eyes are exposed, and good winter gloves and boots. Plan to drink hot chocolate to warm up.
In New York’s Adirondack Mountains, Old Forge recorded an early Saturday temperature of minus 36 degrees (minus 38 C) degrees. Temperatures dipped into negative teens in dozens of other cities and towns.
Mackenzie Glasser, owner of Ozzie’s Coffee Bar in Old Forge, said freezing temperatures are a part of life in the Adirondacks.
“I even had customers during the first hour of opening, and I didn’t expect that at 7 a.m., so I don’t think that keeps too many people away,” she said. .
The good news is that cold air is expected to leave much of the region by Sunday, when temperatures could hit 40 degrees.
Michael Hill in Albany, New York, Michael Casey in Boston, and Kathy McCormack in Concord, New Hampshire contributed to this story.