‘Dangerously cold’ wind chills threaten millions from Great Lakes to New England

NEW YORK — As the East Coast digs out from the first major snowstorm of the season, the tri-state is now in the firm grip of a major deep freeze.

High winds are making already frigid temperatures even more miserable across the Northeast and Midwest on Saturday.

State officials are urging residents to limit the time spent outdoors saying it's "dangerously cold" and warned them of blowing snow.

Wind Chill Advisories have been issued across much of the region, but areas well north are under Wind Chill Warnings where there is a potential to feel like -35 degrees. While the city is not expected to get those extreme wind chill values, it will still feel brutal with the potential of feel like readings as low as -15.

Temperatures this low could create frostbite and hypothermia in minutes. All should dress layers and cover exposed skin if heading outdoors within the next 24-36 hours.

 

Skies will remain clear but gusts of 40 mph will persist through the night. Overnight temperatures will drop into the single digits around the city but a few places will go below zero after midnight. Wind chill values generally be -10 to -15 across mostly places but areas further north will be where over wind chills could be colder than -20.

The core of the cold will be Saturday. Despite the sunshine, temperatures will struggle to climb through the low teens and gusts of 40-50 mph will keep wind chill values well below zero through the day. Gradually the winds will ease off but that will only allow the overnight air temperatures to potentially drop to around 3 degrees by Sunday morning.

Temperatures will begin to moderate through the second half of the week as high pressure settles over the region. By Sunday afternoon, temperatures will climb to around the low to mid 20s.

The trend will continue heading into next week but there is a risk of a light mix late on Monday. As the system moves in, temperatures at the surface may still be cold enough for a bit of snow, but the temperatures will gradually will climb to the mid 30s allowing for a changeover of some sleet or light rain showers. Further details will be given through the weekend.

Beyond Monday, temperatures will continue to moderate. Highs by the latter half of the week could return to the 40s but it may come with some rain showers.

What is wind chill?

It's the perceived temperature that people and animals feel when exposed to the elements. Or as forecasters say, it's the "feels like" temperature.

"As wind increases in speed, it increases the rate of heat loss on your body making you feel colder than it actually is," Van Dam said.

Wind chill is calculated by the rate the body loses heat due to speed winds and cold temperatures.

Saturday's cold snap has been called dangerous because it will make it easier for people to experience hypothermia and frostbite.

If the wind chills range from 15 to 25 degrees below zero as expected in much of western and northern Pennsylvania on Saturday, the onset of frostbite can take as little as 10 minutes.

And when the wind chill registers below minus 50 it would take only five minutes for exposed skin to develop frostbite.

Deadly conditions

At least 19 people have died this week because of severe weather, officials said.

Six deaths were reported in Wisconsin, four in Texas, three in North Carolina, and one each in Ohio, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, South Carolina and Virginia.

Among the dead was a 64-year-old man who died of hypothermia in Akron, Ohio. A Meals on Wheels driver found his body lying in front of his wheelchair on the porch of the man's home.

In South Carolina, a man was killed after his pickup slid on icy roads, hitting a median and several trees, according to the Kershaw County Coroner.

Emerging from the storm

The storm heaped plenty of misery across New England. Waves from the sea washed into Boston streets. And the tide in the city -- 15.16 feet -- broke the record set during the blizzard of 1978, the National Weather Service said.

The storm flooded streets in some communities in coastal Massachusetts, turning roads into slushy rivers. Firefighters and the National Guard had scrambled to rescue dozens of coastal residents stranded by freezing water pushing from the Atlantic. First responders braved the frigid waters using rubber rescue boats and high-water vehicles.

On Friday, areas were freezing over.

"We'll use a big pump (to) move some of the ice around, but we really have to wait for the weather to warm up," said Rob Reardon, captain of the fire department in Duxbury, about 35 miles southeast of Boston.