CONCORD, N.H. — Plunging temperatures and gusty winds made their way Thursday into the Northeastern U.S., the next victim in the path of dangerously cold temperatures to hit the country.
A strong Arctic cold front moved across the region with temperatures falling throughout the day and commuters, schools and outdoor workers slowing down, girding up, and taking precautions.
Vermont public safety officials warned residents to limit their time outdoors at least through Friday with dangerous wind chills of minus-35 in the forecast. Some schools and government offices closed early in upstate New York ahead of lake-effect snow expected to bring 1 to 2 feet.
In western Pennsylvania, lake-effect snow bands were blamed for slick roads and poor visibility. Fifty-nine vehicles crashed in a snowy pileup and three people were hurt. The crash was one of three that shut down different stretches of Interstate 80.
Blowing snow in Syracuse, New York, slowed the morning commute on Interstate 81 to a crawl.
“It doesn’t bother me as long as I go slow,” commuter Dawn Coyer, who lives north of Syracuse, told Time Warner Cable News. “But I wasn’t driving and she (a friend) said ‘No, we’re not doing this.'”
Parts of the Adirondack Northway, north of Albany, were closed for more than four hours after a crash involving a tractor-trailer and a snowplow. No injuries were reported.
Elsewhere in upstate New York, along the Lake Ontario shore, wind gusts approached 70 mph and the National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning effective through early Friday morning. Lake-effect snow was accompanied by winds up to 50 mph causing whiteout conditions in some places.
In parts of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine overnight, the frigid weather and wind will cause temperatures to dip below zero as winds gust up to 30 mph and chills near minus-20.
“You are talking about 30 degrees below normal highs. That is pretty darn cold,” said weather service meteorologist James Brown in Maine. “This is pretty much a piece of Arctic air that came off the North Pole and came into New England.”
Forecasters said a storm will follow the frigid temperatures, bringing chances for snow, sleet and freezing rain across much of the U.S.
While it sounded pretty grim, some winter weather veterans took it all in stride.
Jon Asmund, a state bridge construction superintendent in New Hampshire, swears by fleece-lined pants. “They do wonders,” he said.
He and his crew were working on a bridge not far from Hampton Beach along the seacoast, dealing with 50 mph wind. “It’s still painful, but we make it through the day.”
Some 90 miles north, Will Irvine was hoping to finish up inspection work on a covered bridge in Conway and avoid the low temperatures and strong wind coming Friday. Some of his crew members were suspended underneath the structure for several hours.
“You manipulate your work schedule for whatever Mother Nature’s going to give you, because you’re not going to change her,” he said.
As the arctic air tracked northeast, Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy planned to activate the state’s severe cold-weather protocol Thursday night, calling for state police and other agencies to work with shelters and community groups to protect vulnerable residents. Malloy also encouraged communities to open warming centers.
Wind chill advisories enveloped much of the Midwest and Northeast on Thursday. And the winter weather conditions claimed at least two lives earlier in the week. A snow and ice-covered road was a factor in a crash Wednesday night that killed a 22-year-old man in a car that lost control and spun into a snowplow in Springport, New York. A 34-year-old woman died of hypothermia in St. Paul, Minnesota. She was found Monday, when temperatures dropped to 3 below zero and wind chills were minus 19.
Maine State Police said a malfunctioning kerosene heater played a role in the death of a man in Turner. The man was found dead Thursday morning in a camper trailer, heated by two kerosene heaters. There was thick smoke and soot in the camper.
Below-normal temperatures are expected this weekend and into Monday across the entire northern half of the country, from the Pacific Northwest to Maine and as far south as Oklahoma, Arkansas and Virginia, according to the Climate Prediction Center.
Up to half a foot of snow could fall from the Upper Mississippi Valley to the Northeast on Friday and Saturday, and areas east of the Appalachian Mountains could see freezing rain and sleet on Saturday.