A record-breaking Arctic explosion gripped the northeastern United States and Canada
The Northeastern United States and Canada were grappling with a “generational” Arctic blast that brought unprecedented wind chills, with temperatures as low as -78C, over the weekend.
The dangerous combination of record cold temperatures and strong winds created life-threatening conditions and caused the death of a baby boy in Massachusetts on Saturday.
Mount Washington in New Hampshire recorded an overnight windchill — a measure of how much air and wind affects skin — of minus 78 degrees Celsius (minus 108 degrees Fahrenheit), which appeared to be the lowest on record in the United States.
The air temperature at the peak reached minus 44 degrees Celsius, with wind gusts of about 160 km/h (100 mph), according to the Mount Washington Observatory.
The Hampden County District Attorney said in a statement that high winds toppled a tree on a vehicle in Southwick, Massachusetts, smashing the vehicle and killing an infant passenger. The driver was taken to hospital with serious injuries.
In Boston, where officials closed the public school system on Friday due to an impending freeze, the low temperature reached minus 23 degrees Celsius, breaking the day’s record set in more than a century, the NWS reported.
In Providence, Rhode Island, the mercury dropped to minus 23 degrees Celsius, well below the previous all-time low of minus 19 degrees Celsius, which was set in 1918.
The Arctic blast pouring into the United States from eastern Canada brought a record low in Albany, New York. Augusta, Maine; Rochester, New York; Worcester, Massachusetts, among other places, the NWS said.
The NWS office in Caribou, Maine, said it had received reports of “frostquakes” — tremors that look like earthquakes but are caused by soil suddenly cracking in the cold — as well as trees splitting, likely due to sap freezing inside tree trunks.
Several cities have taken emergency measures to help residents, including opening heating centers and conducting outreach to ensure the homeless are protected from the bitter cold.
In Boston, the Pine Street Inn, New England’s largest provider of homeless services, has doubled the number of vans that ply city streets Friday and Saturday, said Barbara Trevisan, a spokeswoman.
“They started going out earlier this week to warn people that the weather was going to be very severe,” she said. “The goal last night was to keep people alive and safe.”
Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healy ordered South Station, the city’s main rail station, to stay open overnight to serve as an emergency shelter. Trevisan estimated that between 50 and 60 homeless people stayed at the station overnight.
Many ski areas have limited operations due to the temperatures. Jay Peak, a ski mountain in northern Vermont near the Canadian border, closed completely Friday and Saturday, citing a danger to staff and skiers.
Very cold weather was expected to be short-lived, with temperatures expected to rise significantly on Sunday. The NWS said the high temperature in Boston on Sunday will be close to 8.3 degrees Celsius.