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Worse winter weather on the way

BOSTON — Northeastern states dug out from double-digit snowfall Friday after a strong winter storm that was blamed for at least 16 deaths.

The worst of winter is yet to come this weekend.

Officials from the Midwest to New England are preparing for another arctic blast that has inspired dire warnings of life-threatening wind chills and historic low temperatures starting Sunday.

The temperature predictions are startling: 25 below zero in Fargo, N.D., minus 31 in International Falls, Minn., and 15 below in Indianapolis and Chicago. At those temperatures, exposed skin can get frostbitten in minutes and hypothermia can quickly set in.

The deep freezing conditions are caused by a perfect combination of the jet stream, cold surface temperatures and the "polar vortex" — a counterclockwise-rotating pool of cold, dense air, said Ryan Maue of Tallahassee, a meteorologist for Weather Bell.

"All the ingredients are there for a near-record or historic cold outbreak," he said. "If you're under 40 (years old), you've not seen this stuff before."

Snow already on the ground and fresh powder expected in some places ahead of the cold air will reduce the sun's heating effect, so nighttime lows will plummet thanks to strong northwest winds that will deliver the arctic blast, Maue said. And there's no warming effect from the Gulf of Mexico to counteract the cold air, he said.

The heaviest snow Thursday night fell north of Boston in Boxford, which received nearly 2 feet. Nearly 18 inches fell in Boston and in western New York near Rochester. Lakewood, N.J., got 10 inches, and New York's Central Park 6. Philadelphia got more than 6 inches.

Temperatures reached 8 below zero in Burlington, Vt., with a wind chill of 29 below, and 2 degrees in Boston. Wind chills there and in Providence, R.I., made it feel like minus-20 Friday morning.

Emergency officials warned that anyone spending more than a few minutes outdoors in such conditions could suffer frostbite.

Fans attending the Green Bay Packers' playoff game Sunday against San Francisco will be taking precautions for one of the coldest games in NFL history, rivaling the subzero temperatures of 1967's infamous Ice Bowl.

Temperatures at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis., are expected to be minus 2 degrees for the 4:40 p.m. EST kickoff. By the fourth quarter it'll be a bone-chilling minus 7, with wind chills approaching minus 30, according to the National Weather Service.

At such temperatures, exposed skin can get frostbitten in minutes and hypothermia can set in. Players will be moving around or huddling around giant heaters on the sidelines.

For fans, the Packers plan to pass out 70,000 hand warmers, packets that fit inside gloves or boots and stay warm for hours. The team will also provide free coffee and hot chocolate.

Kellie Kunz, a Packers fan from Naperville, Ill., will be attending her first Green Bay game Sunday. She said the opportunity to see her team in a critical playoff game was just too good to pass up.

"We'll dress warm — down jacket, long underwear, fleece-lined tights," said Kunz, who grew up in Wisconsin. "I'm just hoping the game is going to be so exciting we won't even notice the freezing cold."

Thursday night's snowfall had all but stopped by morning across the hard-hit Philadelphia-to-Boston corridor and many highways and streets were soon plowed and reopened.

"The snow is easy to move because the air was so cold when it snowed that it's sort of light and fluffy stuff — but, uh, it's cold," Avalon "Nick" Minton said as he cleared the entrance to his garage and sidewalk in Arlington, Mass. "That's the main part. It's cold."

Wellington Ferreira said the cold was worse than the snow as he cleared a sidewalk in front of Johnny D's Uptown Restaurant and Music Club in Somerville.

"My ears are frozen," he said.

Warming centers opened around the region, homeless shelters received more people, and cities took special measures to look after those most vulnerable to the cold. Teams in New York City searched the streets for homeless people, while in Boston police asked residents to call 911 if they saw someone in need.

Slick roads were blamed for several traffic deaths. In addition, a 71-year-old woman with Alzheimer's disease froze to death after she wandered away from her rural western New York home. And a worker in Philadelphia was killed when a 100-foot-high pile of road salt fell and crushed him.

Major highways in and around New York City reopened, and airports across the region struggled to resume normal operations after U.S. airlines canceled around 2,200 flights on Friday on top of 2,300 the day before.

Jeremy Shapiro, 73, of Manhattan became stranded at New York's Kennedy Airport on Thursday. On Friday afternoon, he was still holding out hope for a spot flying standby so he could get to Santa Barbara, Calif.

He secured a cot, a pillow and a blanket after seeing about 150 passengers sleeping on cots at the terminal.

"It looked like an infirmary from WWI," he said.

Cold in our forecast

The Tampa Bay area forecast calls for a high of 66 for Monday's annual Epiphany Day cross dive in Tarpon Springs, according to Bay News 9. That night, temperatures are expected to plunge to 35 degrees, with lows in the 20s in northern counties.

Air travel snarled

U.S. airlines canceled around 2,200 flights on Friday. A total of 66 flights were canceled to or from Tampa International Airport, with 152 delays reported as of 10 p.m. Friday, a spokeswoman said. Delays were almost evenly split between arrivals and departures. Among those affected were flights from Boston, Philadelphia, Newark and both of New York City's major airports. Flights were also delayed from cities including Atlanta and Charlotte, which are major hubs for several airlines. Outgoing flights to New York, Newark and Chicago were canceled as well, with delays to other airports stacking up early.

Worse winter weather on the way 01/03/14 [Last modified: Saturday, January 4, 2014 10:55am]
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