Thursday, January 15, 2009
Record Bone-chilling temperatures settle over East
MONTPELIER, Vt. — Winter-hardened Northeasterners were socked with the same subzero temperatures and biting winds that have turned the Northern Plains, Midwest and Great Lakes into a teeth-chattering misery for much of the week.
Maine residents braced Thursday for readings down to 40 below zero. And in the Midwest, Iowans were warned that temperatures could drop as far as 27 below zero, matching a Jan. 15 record set in 1972.
The deep freeze was part of a snow and arctic system that stretched from Montana to northern New England and dipped as far south as North Carolina.
Forecasters issued lake-effect snow warnings Thursday for Indiana, Michigan, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Wind chill warnings were posted for those states as well as Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Missouri, the Dakotas, Wisconsin and Minneapolis.
In Michigan, the community of Pellston, in the northern Lower Peninsula, and Big Rapids, in the central Lower Peninsula, were Michigan's cold spots at 6 a.m. Thursday, with temperatures of minus 21 degrees.
The air temperature was 29 degrees below zero in Glenwood, Minn., on Thursday morning, with the wind chill making it a staggering 54 degrees below zero. It was 20 degrees below zero at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, but the wind chill made it feel like 37 below zero.
In southwest Ohio, Butler County reopened its former jail as an emergency shelter, with room for about 40 people to have a blanket, meal and shower, said Lt. Nick Fischer of the sheriff's office. Fischer said the county will make room for more if needed.
Around Ohio, blowing snow grounded at least two medical helicopters called to transport accident victims. At the site of a wreck on Interstate 75 near Bowling Green, an ambulance had to drive two people to hospitals in Toledo.
The mercury hovering around zero Wednesday didn't faze truck driver Gary Jacobs, 49, of Barre, Vt., bundled in five layers — T-shirt, a long-sleeved shirt, sweat shirt, hooded sweat shirt and coat, in addition to snowpants, boots and a knit cap.
"People in Arizona say `It's a dry heat.' This is a fresh cold," Jacobs said.
In New York, where light snow fell overnight, temperatures early Thursday morning ranged from 7 above in Buffalo to 21 below in Massena in northern New York. Lows of 18 below to 26 below are forecast for the Adirondacks Thursday night and Friday.
The frigid conditions caused complications for highway managers because road salt doesn't melt ice in subzero temperatures.
"Once we get into minus 10, minus 20, in some cases we have to go to just straight sand, a light dusting of sand, on the highway to get some grit, provide some traction," said Mike Flick a transportation worker in Pamelia, N.Y.
The National Weather Service warned that temperatures could plummet to 10 to 15 below zero across northern Illinois. With winds gusts of around 30 mph, it could feel as low as 40 below.
Scores of public and private schools throughout the Chicago area announced in advance that they would be closed or have delayed starts Thursday because of the bitter cold.
As the snow ended Wednesday afternoon cancelations reduced to around 250 at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, down from more than 300 several hours earlier. Delays at O'Hare averaged up to 60 minutes. There were only a few cancelations at Midway International Airport.
The Indiana State Police banned some large trucks from the Indiana Toll Road due to hazardous weather conditions. Forecasters expect 2 to 5 inches of snow could fall Thursday in southern New England, making commutes messy and dangerous.
Even northern Georgia and Kentucky could see single-digit lows by Friday, with zero possible at Lexington, Ky., the weather service warned. Kentucky hasn't been that cold since December 2004.
Snowy conditions Wednesday led to at least two fatal highway crashes in Ohio and two more in Indiana. A day earlier, a Wisconsin man died of exposure after wandering from his home.
Vermont's Bolton Valley ski resort canceled night skiing through Friday night for fear that skiers could freeze if they were marooned on a malfunctioning ski lift.
In Cleveland, where it was snowing and 10 degrees at lunchtime Wednesday, Terry Gill, 23, was bundled up with four layers of clothes. He had a secret for staying warm.
"I just try not to think about it," Gill said while waiting for a bus in a shelter surrounded by piles of snow from nearly 17 inches that have fallen in one week. "I mean, it's cold. That's Cleveland weather."