A brutal blast of dangerously cold winds is expected to sweep across the Northeast and New England on Friday, prompting officials to close schools and activate emergency plans as the region braces for record-breaking sub-zero temperatures.
Frigid air feeling as cold as 32 degrees Fahrenheit below zero across much of the region will be combined with gusty winds, a nasty double-whammy that could lead to frostbite in as little as 10 minutes in some areas.
“Temperatures in most regions will likely have their highest temperatures of the day before sunrise as temperatures will fall throughout the day Friday. Strong winds will bring dangerously cold temperatures, with the peak of the cold in the Northeast occurring late Friday to Saturday morning,” CNN Meteorologist Taylor Ward said.
The severe cold has put more than 15 million people in the region under wind chill warnings or advisories. Wind chill indicates how cold the air may feel, and the weather service issues such warnings when winds are expected to feel as cold as 25 degrees Fahrenheit below zero.
The cold spell is expected to begin subsiding by Sunday when temperatures will likely rise again. In the meantime, officials across several states have begun imploring residents to stay indoors and have ramped up warming center efforts to accommodate some of the most vulnerable to the cold.
Schools in Buffalo, New York, and at least three districts in Massachusetts decided to cancel classes Friday as a precautionary measure for students and staff’s safety. The city of Boston is also under a cold emergency Friday through Sunday.
“With extreme weather conditions and many of our students commuting to and from school, walking and waiting for public transportation outdoors, we have made the decision to close for the day,” Boston Public Schools Superintendent Mary Skipper said in a statement.
Officials in New York’s Erie County – home to Buffalo – issued a code blue, which allows for those experiencing homelessness to seek shelter overnight when temperatures plummet below 32 degrees. In addition to opening three overnight shelters in the county, there are also daytime warming centers available.
The extreme cold is moving in on Buffalo weeks after blizzard conditions wreaked havoc on Erie County during Christmas weekend, killing least 39 people. The South is also struggling with a deadly ice storm that made road conditions miserable this week, claiming the lives of at least eight people in two states.
“Please dress appropriately and don’t go out for extended periods in order to avoid frostbite or hypothermia,” Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said online.
In surrounding states, warming centers are expected to be available in Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Vermont, officials said.
All of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut are under wind chill alerts. Northern New Jersey, northeast Pennsylvania and much of New York state outside of New York City and Long Island are also under wind chill threat.
“Very dangerous wind chills are likely and widespread wind chill warnings and advisories are already in effect for all of New England and parts of the Northeast,” the National Weather Service said Thursday. “The potential exists for numerous record low temperatures Saturday morning.”
Maine will likely bear the brunt of the storm in terms of longevity as well as severity at times, with more than 70,000 people in the northern portion of the state under blizzard warnings, according to the National Weather Service.
“Extreme cold and wind producing dangerously low wind chills Friday into Saturday. Blizzard conditions in blowing snow across open areas,” the National Weather Service in Caribou, Maine, said.
Here’s what else is forecast in places with wind chill warnings:
- Bangor, Maine: Temperatures will begin dropping after midnight Friday and reach their lowest of minus 21 degrees Fahrenheit during the early morning hours Saturday.
- Boston: The winds will feel as cold as 32 degrees Fahrenheit below zero, with below-zero temperatures lasting from Friday night through Saturday morning.
- Burlington, Vermont: Temperatures will dip to minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit, with the coldest winds feeling like 41 degrees below zero.
- Manchester, New Hampshire: Temperatures will remain below zero beginning Friday evening into Saturday morning, with the coldest being minus 13 degrees Fahrenheit. The coldest winds will feel like 40 degrees Fahrenheit below zero.
- Mt. Washington, New Hampshire: The highest peak in the Northeast may face gusts of over 130 mph early Saturday morning. This combined with temperatures of minus 40 degrees or lower will create wind chills as cold as minus 100 degrees.
Elsewhere, New York City will see single-digit temperatures, with the coldest at 8 degrees Saturday morning. Winds could feel as low as 7 degrees below zero, with Friday night into Saturday being the coldest period.
Farther south, an ice storm lashed parts of several states including Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee this week.
Layers upon layers of ice, sleet and freezing rain over the course of multiple consecutive days made driving conditions life-threatening and snapped many tree branches and limbs that eventually knocked down power lines for tens of thousands.
As of early Friday, more than 250,000 homes and businesses in Texas were still without power following the storm, according to tracking site PowerOutage.us. About 60,000 homes and businesses in neighboring Arkansas were also in the dark.
The ice storm’s impact on roads made for deadly conditions this week.
In Oklahoma, two people were killed in separate crashes after they lost control of their trucks on icy roads.
And in Texas, three people were killed near Brownfield after a driver of a truck lost control Wednesday morning on an icy part of US Highway 380 and rolled into a ditch. The driver and two of his passengers were killed, the Texas Department of Public Safety said.
Another driver died near Eldorado, Texas, after losing control of her truck, the public safety department said.
One person was killed in a 10-car pile up in south Austin, the city’s fire department said.
In Arlington, Texas, one person was killed after their vehicle rolled over, police said.