Northeastern United States Braces for Brutal Cold Not Felt in Decades
(CNN) — As hundreds of thousands of people remain without power in Texas on Thursday amid frigid temperatures and icy roads, the Northeast is bracing for a blast of freezing air that forecasters say could be the coldest felt in decades.
Texas has been bearing the brunt of a dangerous ice storm that dumped several rounds of sleet and freezing rain, causing life-threatening conditions on highways in neighboring states, including Oklahoma, Arkansas and the Memphis area of Tennessee.
On Wednesday, Texas reported that a third person had died during the storm after losing control of their truck on an icy road north of Eldorado. One person was killed in a 10-car pileup in Austin, and another died after his car rolled over in the Dallas-area city of Arlington, authorities said.
And while this Thursday is expected to bring some relief from the deadly storm as temperatures slowly rise, the accumulation of multiple layers of ice and sleet has snapped tree limbs and led to power outages for nearly 400,000 homes. and businesses in Texas as of Thursday morning, according to PowerOutage.us. That means thousands of people probably don’t have heat or hot water, as ice covers the ground.
Overnight and into early Thursday, an additional quarter inch of ice could cover already slippery roads, especially in central and north Texas, southern Oklahoma and Arkansas.
“This will bring total ice accumulation from the storm to greater than 0.5″ in many locations, increasing the risk of significant tree damage and power outages, as well as icy and dangerous roads. Sleet can also sometimes mix with freezing rain which will increase the chances of icing roads,” the National Weather Service said.
As Texas and the South Central region await warmer temperatures, another winter storm looming in the Northeast has raised alarm bells for forecasters about the possibility of wind temperatures well below zero degrees Fahrenheit this Friday and Saturday.
“This is an epic, generational arctic outbreak,” the National Weather Service said in Caribou, Maine. “The air mass descending on the area this Friday through Friday night is the coldest air currently in the Northern Hemisphere.”
By late Thursday night, the Northeast could begin to feel freezing temperatures, prompting authorities in several states to announce preparations.
In Connecticut, the governor activated the state’s severe cold weather protocol effective noon Thursday through the weekend.
“With the kind of intense cold ahead, frostbite can set in on exposed skin in less than 30 minutes. Spending long periods of time outdoors in these conditions is not only harmful, it can be fatal,” said Governor Ned Lamont.
The governor added that shelters and warming centers are available throughout Connecticut, and transportation can be provided when needed.
Similarly, warming centers are expected to become available in Maine, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Vermont, officials said.
In Boston, the mayor declared a cold emergency in the city from this Friday to Sunday, due to the strong low temperatures.
“I urge all Bostonians to take precautions, stay warm and safe, and check on your neighbors during this cold emergency,” Mayor Michelle Wu said.
There are more than 6,000 canceled flights so far this week
So far this week, there have been 6,236 flight cancellations inside and outside the US, including 703 cancellations as of Thursday at 8:15 am ET, according to flight tracking site FlightAware.
Nearly half of the nation’s cancellations Thursday, 333 flights, occurred from Dallas-Fort Worth, Dallas Love Field and Austin-Bergstrom airports in Texas, where winter weather is causing travel problems and rain is expected frost persists in the morning and early morning hours.
American Airlines, which has its largest hub in DFW, led the most cancellations, with more than 400.
Extreme cold will affect millions of people this weekend
More than 15 million people are expected to be under a wind chill watch or advisory in the Northeast from Thursday night or Friday morning through at least Saturday afternoon.
The National Weather Service issues a Wind Chill Warning when the air is expected to feel -31 degrees Celsius or colder.
Wind chill warnings would apply to all of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, northern Connecticut, much of eastern and central New York, and northeastern Pennsylvania.
In northern New England, temperatures will drop to 25-31 degrees below zero heading into the weekend. Additionally, the frigid temperatures will be joined by winds of 25 to 40 miles per hour, making the air as far south as New York City feel minus 23 degrees Celsius.
“Avoid any outdoor activities Friday and Saturday! Low temperatures coupled with the wind chill factor could lead to life-threatening conditions outdoors,” the New Hampshire Homeland Security and Emergency Management said in a post on Facebook on Wednesday afternoon.
Meanwhile, parts of northern New York and northern New England will feel temperatures between -37 and -45 degrees Celsius, with some locations experiencing wind chills as low as 54 degrees below zero. These extreme conditions can cause frostbite in as little as five minutes.
“In the northern part of this (New England) region, low temperatures as low as minus 45 degrees could be the lowest they have been felt in decades,” the Weather Prediction Center said.
The cold snap is expected to be brief and temperatures will rise in most of the region on Sunday afternoon.