East Coast ice box: coldest weather in years freezes big cities


washingtonpost.com | Jan 23, 2013

By Jason Samenow

Simulation of temperatures about 1 mile up in the atmosphere. All locations north of the purple shades are sub-freezing – within the core of the arctic airmass. (WeatherBell.com)

Along the I-95 corridor from Washington, D.C. to New York City, the mercury plunged into the single digits and teens this morning – the coldest readings witnessed in years. Factoring in a stiff wind from the northwest, wind chills tanked to near or below zero.

Washington, D.C.’s low of 15 degrees was its coldest since March 3, 2009. New York City dropped to 11 degrees and both Baltimore and Philadelphia plummeted to 12 degrees, their most frigid low temperatures since January 24, 2011.


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In Boston, this morning’s low of 10 wasn’t quite as cold as the 7 degree reading January 3 (earlier this month), but highs this afternoon are only expected to reach the mid-teens, coldest since January 24, 2011. Wind chill advisories are in effect tonight west of Boston for readings as low as 17 below.

“Anyone with outside interests today is encouraged to bundle up as well limit bare skin exposure and time outside,” the National Weather Service office in Taunton, Ma. wrote in its forecast discussion.

Temperatures as of 11 a.m. ET Wednesday (Oklahoma Mesonet)

The cold arrived courtesy of an arctic front that cut across the eastern two-thirds of the country Sunday and Monday.

The brutally cold blast held high temperatures in Minneapolis below zero Monday for the first time in over four years, ending its longest streak on record without experiencing such cold.

Chicago had its chilliest weather in two years Tuesday, with a high of 11 degrees and a low of 1 below.

“By midnight Tuesday, the area moved into a 55th consecutive hour of sub-20-degree thermometer readings and 46 hours with wind chills below zero,” wrote Tom Skilling, chief meteorologist at Chicago’s WGN.

As cold as these temperatures are, very few have been record-breaking. “These temperatures have not even come close to ranking among January’s 10 coldest days or nights on record at long-term observation sites,” the Weather Channel’s Nick Wiltgen said.

In the month of January, 2746 high temperature records have been set compared to 1275 low temperature records across the U.S.

While the core of the arctic chill grips the East today, the cold is expected to ease very briefly in parts of Midwest and Ohio Valley. Chicago, for example, is expected to reach the low 20s, about 10 degrees warmer than Tuesday.

However, a reinforcing shot of cold air is diving south across the northern Plains and will reach the East Coast by Thursday. Along the Canadian border, the low in International Falls tonight is forecast to crash to at least 30 degrees below zero tonight. While that is unmistakably frigid, consider its all-time record low is 55 below, set January 6, 1909.

Colder than average weather stands to remain over much of the eastern U.S. through the weekend.


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