Arctic air in the US north-east on Saturday brought dangerously cold temperatures and wind chills including a record-setting -108F (-78C) on the summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire.
Authorities in Massachusetts took the unusual step of keeping the South Station transit hub open so homeless people had a place to sleep. High winds brought down a tree branch on a car in western Massachusetts, killing an infant.
The Arctic air reached the region just as a rapid cyclogenesis developed over Labrador and Newfoundland, churning up powerful winds, said Donald Dumont, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service (NWS) in Gray, Maine, explaining the temperature plunge. A cyclogenesis refers to an intensification of a cyclone or low-pressure storm system.
The Mount Washington Observatory at the peak of the north-east’s highest mountain, famous for its extreme weather conditions, recorded an actual temperature of -47F (-44C), tying a record set in 1934, and a wind gust of 127mph.
Across the rest of the region, wind chills dropped as low as -45 to -50F (-43 to -45C), the NWS reported.
In Southwick, Massachusetts, on Friday winds brought a branch down on a vehicle driven by a 23-year-old woman, according to the Hampden district attorney. The driver was taken to hospital with serious injuries but the infant died.
Boston’s Pine Street Inn, the largest provider of homeless services in New England, ramped up outreach, doubling the number of vehicles that could transport people to shelters and opening their lobby for extra space.
“On a night like last night, the biggest concern is the people who have compromised judgment,” Pine Street Inn president and chief executive Lyndia Downie said of people who have substance use disorder or mental illness. “On these cold nights, they are not thinking at 100% of their capacity. Those are the people we are most worried about.”
The emergency room at Massachusetts General Hospital treated several people for hypothermia and a couple were admitted for frostbite.
“The reason people unfortunately end up with severe frostbite in most cases is just because they don’t have anywhere warm and safe to go,” said Dr Ali Raja, deputy chair of the emergency department.
Boston; Providence, Rhode Island; Hartford, Connecticut; Worcester, Massachusetts; Albany, New York; and Glens Falls, New York set or matched record low temperatures for 4 February, according to the NWS.
In New York’s Adirondack Mountains, Old Forge recorded a temperature early Saturday of -36F (-38C) degrees. Temperatures plunged into the negative teens in dozens of other cities and towns.
The good news was that the cold air moved out of much of the region on Sunday. Temperatures in many areas climbed to the mid-40sF. Atop Mount Washington, the temperature rose to a relatively balmy 18F, or -8C.
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