Dangerous Cold Is Next Threat for Storm-Battered East Coast
The winter storm that barreled from Florida to Maine and cloaked the East Coast in snow has moved on, but frigid air — and plenty of icy, then slushy, messes — will linger for days.
“While conditions have begun to improve across the Northeastern U.S., the arctic surge is already underway accompanied by brisk winds at times,” the National Weather Service said in a forecast early Friday. “Dangerously low wind chill temperatures are to be expected the next couple of days with some blowing snow possible.”
The system, which some forecasters classified as a “bomb cyclone” because of a steep decline in atmospheric pressure, proved paralytic in parts of more than a dozen states, cracking water pipes, shutting down schools, flooding streets and making roads treacherous. The authorities said at least seven fatalities appeared connected to the weather.
Here’s the latest:
• In many places, temperatures are not expected to increase dramatically until next week. The Weather Service said high temperatures will “struggle to get above the single digits” in some areas through Saturday and that “many” records could be broken.
• The forecasted wind chills are particularly worrisome for emergency officials. Meteorologists said parts of Maine could experience wind chills of minus 40, but the bitter cold was not restricted to the East Coast’s northernmost areas. Wind chills could reach minus 15 in the North Carolina mountains and 25 below zero in parts of eastern Pennsylvania.
• Airlines have canceled nearly 1,500 flights that were scheduled for Friday, according to FlightAware, an aviation monitoring website. The storm forced airlines to scrub about 5,500 flights on Thursday, and FlightAware said Friday morning that it expected the aviation industry “to begin recovering this afternoon.”
• Many school districts that were closed on Thursday resumed classes on Friday. Students returned in New York City, home to the nation’s largest public school district, and Washington. But classes were still canceled in Boston and Philadelphia, among other places.
• Utility companies reported they had restored electricity to tens of thousands of customers. A major electric company in Virginia said Friday morning that about 3,000 home and businesses lacked electricity, down from more than 40,000 on Thursday.
It could feel as cold as 100 below zero atop a mountain in New Hampshire.
At the summit of Mt. Washington, in New Hampshire, often one of the coldest places in New England during a winter storm, furious winds are expected to make the air feel as frigid as 100 degrees below zero.
“With dangerously low wind chills and poor visibilities from thick fog, falling snow and blowing snow, treacherous conditions will prevail above treeline into tomorrow before slowly beginning to improve,” Caleb Meute, a staff meteorologist at the Mount Washington Observatory, wrote in a forecast on Friday morning, adding that actual temperatures could reach 40 degrees below zero and said exposed skin could be frostbitten within one minute.
The skies are clear in New York, but the danger has not passed.
Blue skies and sunshine are in store for Friday and Saturday in the New York area, but with highs near 15 and lows around 9, it will feel like 5 or 10 below zero with the wind.
A wind chill advisory remains in effect until Saturday morning. Hat and gloves are an absolute must. Read more here with New York Today.
The storm scrambled travel plans well beyond the Northeast.
Sophia Smith thought she had beaten the “bomb cyclone.” But minutes after boarding a New York-bound plane on Thursday morning, a text message from the airline arrived.
Her flight was canceled.
Ms. Smith’s trip home from Orlando, Fla., was among the thousands of flights scrapped on Thursday as a winter storm pounded the Northeast and sent problems rippling out to airports across the country.
Some airlines offered refunds and notified travelers of the cancellations hours in advance, drawing praise from stranded passengers. But many other travelers found themselves marooned in airports far from home and frustrated by limited options for rebooking.
In Ms. Smith’s case, she said her airline offered two unpalatable choices: take an eight-hour trip on Friday with a layover in out-of-the-way Dallas, or wait and fly direct to New York on Sunday. She chose the latter.
“I was happy to kind of rearrange my travel plans in light of the weather,” said Ms. Smith, a Brooklyn resident who had hoped to return to her theater work. But she said the airline’s options were “ridiculous.” Read more here.
Snow and high tides made a mess of Boston.
Boston’s Long Wharf area became a slushy mess when a three-foot tidal surge pushed floodwaters into buildings and down the steps of the Aquarium mass transit station on Thursday. Firefighters rescued one person who was trapped in a car that had water nearly to its door handles.
“This is the first time I’ve ever seen the water come this high in the downtown area,” Joseph Finn, the city’s fire commissioner, said then as the wind whipped heavy snow through the air.
Mr. Finn said emergency workers had made some other rescues in coastal areas of the city, helping people out of stranded cars in the icy water, and city officials said flooding had extended to other neighborhoods, including the Seaport, Dorchester and East Boston. Meteorologists said Thursday’s tides were some of the highest ever recorded in Boston.
Why is it so cold? What’s the influence of climate change?
Some scientists studying the connection between climate change and cold spells, which occur when cold Arctic air dips south, say that they may be related. But the importance of the relationship is not fully clear yet. Read more here.
Reporting was contributed by Alan Blinder from Atlanta, Jess Bidgood from Boston, Mitch Smith from Chicago, and Vivian Wang from New York.