By Brad Brooks and Brendan O’Brien
LUBBOCK, Texas (Reuters) – The northeastern United States was bracing for a record deep freeze on Thursday, with wind chills expected to drop to the equivalent of -50 degrees Fahrenheit (-46 degrees Celsius) in some places, while the freezing rain in the south left thousands of people. without electricity and turned roads into ice rinks.
Dangerous wind chills are likely in an area stretching from northern Pennsylvania to Maine beginning early Friday through Saturday night, the National Weather Service said in its forecast.
“Wind chills have the potential to be cold once in a generation,” the weather service said, urging people to stay indoors or take precautions against frostbite and hypothermia. The wind chill factor describes the combined effect of wind and low temperatures on exposed skin.
In New Hampshire’s Mount Washington State Park, atop the highest peak in the Northeast, record wind chills of -110 degrees and wind speeds exceeding 100 miles (160 km) per hour were expected.
“It’s definitely very cold, you can say that,” said Frances Tarasiewicz, a weather observer at the park.
“It’s a seasonal 5 degrees today, but it’s getting to us quickly,” he said of the blast of cold heading for the Mount Washington Observatory, where staff members live on the mountain in eight-day shifts.
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu declared a cold emergency for New England’s largest city Friday through Sunday as the city expects freezing wind chills starting Friday. Boston has opened warming centers so people can keep warm.
“I urge all Bostonians to take precautions, stay warm and safe, and keep an eye on your neighbors during this cold emergency,” Wu said in a statement.
As the Northeast braced for the blast of cold, Texas and parts of the South were dealing with the aftermath of a winter storm that brought days of freezing rain, sleet and ice packs, causing widespread power outages and dangerously slippery roads across the region.
More than 450,000 homes and businesses in Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee were without power early Thursday, according to Poweroutage.us, after half an inch of ice in some spots downed power lines and trees.
Officials across the region also urged motorists to stay off the roads after icy roads across the region were blamed for eight deaths in recent days, CBS News reported.
Across the state, Texans took to social media to post images of vehicles sliding sideways on slippery roads and ice-covered tree branches bending under the weight. A video posted to Twitter by user Rob Quigley shows a man on ice skates playing hockey on a glazed sidewalk in a Dallas suburb.
The cold snap and ice storms come as the celebrated groundhog known as Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow on Thursday, traditionally a sign of six more weeks of freezing weather in North America.
(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago, Rich McKay in Atlanta and Laila Kearney in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis)
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