Arctic chill brings record low temperatures to the Northeast

Arctic sea smoke rises from the the Atlantic Ocean as a passenger ferry passes Spring Point Ledge Light, on Saturday, off the coast of South Portland, Maine. The morning temperature was about minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

Robert F. Bukaty / Robert F. Bukaty

An Arctic chill is sweeping the northeastern U.S., with wind gusts powering frigid temperatures not seen in decades.

In New Hampshire, the peak of Mount Washington on Friday night hit minus 46 degrees Fahrenheit, the lowest temperature ever recorded at the station atop the state’s highest mountain — known for its extreme weather — since 1934, a year after recordings began, according to the National Weather Service.

The Mount Washington summit’s windchill — how cold the temperature feels — recorded an all-time record low of minus 108 degrees, said the NWS. The reading was so extreme, the agency said, that it created errors in its software.

Several major cities set daily record lows on Saturday, according to the NWS, across New York, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

The cold snap was caused by a portion of the polar vortex — a wide swath of freezing air — above the North Pole that traveled southward from Canada to New England, said Francis Tarasiewicz, a meteorologist at Mount Washington Observatory.

A blizzard warning remains in effect for parts of Maine. Western portions of the state and northern New Hampshire could see dangerous wind chills, as low as minus 45 degrees, into early Sunday.

The NWS warned about the threats of frostbite and hypothermia; skin exposed to freezing temps could become frostbitten or frozen in as little as 10 minutes.

In Boston, warming centers were opened Friday night. Homeless services workers there are doing additional outreach to bring unsheltered people inside. John Lanham, who oversees two shelters in the greater Boston area, says no one seeking refuge from the cold there will be turned away.

Officials have been scaling back ski and other snow sport events due to the severe conditions. After the wind chill at Whiteface Mountain in upstate New York dropped to minus 71 degrees, Empire State Winter Games in Lake Placid postponed two events and canceled six events entirely to keep athletes safe.

The short-lived Arctic snap already began letting up on Saturday, with warmer temperatures expected on Sunday.

North Country Public Radio reporter Emily Russell, WAER reporter Geoffrey Goose and GBH reporter Mark Herz contributed to this report.

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