Many areas of Maine colder than Mount Washington overnight, but ‘tomorrow is going to be great’

Posted Jan. 04, 2014, at 10:35 a.m.
Last modified Jan. 04, 2014, at 6:24 p.m.

BRUNSWICK, Maine — Unseasonable cold overnight Friday should yield to warmer air and sun Saturday, but Mainers who look for rain on Monday may find dangerous driving conditions due to a still-frozen ground.

Temperatures overnight reached minus 42 at the Presque Isle airport, according to meteorologist Mike Kistner of the National Weather Service in Gray. Add in the wind chill, and they bottomed out at minus 47.

The Fryeburg airport saw a low of minus 29 overnight, with a wind chill of minus 36 reported at 5:54 a.m.

Meteorologist Richard Norton of the National Weather Service in Caribou said Saturday that temperatures as low as minus 18 in Caribou yesterday “aren’t unusually cold, but colder than would be seasonal” – minus 29 degrees below the normal low of 3 above zero.

“A lot of areas are actually colder than Mount Washington,” Norton said. “But that’s not so unusual — it happened during last week’s ice storm, too.

The American Automobile Association reported a record-breaking day on Friday, recording more than 8,000 calls for service in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, according to Tad Moody, who dispatched during the day from the Portland office.

Atlantic Coast Towing in Brunswick also broke records, according to Chuck Lounder.

“There were cars off the road, and so many jump-starts,” he said. “We were just overwhelmed with calls.”

But take heart, Maine. Today will bring a warming trend, and coastal counties, as well as southern Oxford, Franklin and Somerset counties, could reach the upper 30s tomorrow, according to Kistner.

“Tonight is going to be getting much warmer, and tomorrow morning is going to be nowhere near as cold as today,” Kistner said. “I would say tomorrow is going to be great, and today won’t be too bad.”

Rain is likely on Monday, with temperatures in the 40s in southern parts of the state, before another cold front arrives Monday night and lasts throughout the week.

Sunday night, however, snow will change to sleet and freezing rain before the rain Monday morning.

“The biggest concern is that the air temperature may get above freezing, so technically [precipitation] is falling as rain, but most likely it will freeze on contact,” Norton said.

Midwest braces for cold

Meanwhile, many parts of the Midwest braced for a blast of Arctic air this weekend that could bring some of the coldest temperatures in two decades before advancing to the Northeast, where residents are still digging out from a deadly snowstorm.

Starting Sunday, the deep freeze will be felt in the northern plains, including North and South Dakota, and through the Great Lakes region and Ohio Valley, according to the National Weather Service.

It will be some of the coldest weather to grip the region in two decades, with blizzard conditions expected in the Central Plains and Great Lakes regions, forecasters said.

“The last really big Arctic outbreak was 1994, said Bob Oravec, a forecaster with the National Weather Service. “Outbreaks like this don’t occur every day. They aren’t unheard of, but they are unusual.”

This push of Arctic air could bring record low temperatures in areas from Montana to Michigan, and move to the Northeast where it will arrive by early Tuesday, forecasters said.

Chicago could be about minus 20, he said. Pittsburgh could see temperatures about 11 degrees below zero Fahrenheit by early Tuesday.

“Incredibly, it may feel as cold as negative 50 to negative 60 on Sunday night over sections of the north-central states,” including Minnesota and Wisconsin, the National Weather Service said in a statement.

In those conditions, frostbite can set in on exposed skin within five minutes, forecasters warned.

Preparing for the dangerous weather, officials in several states asked residents to use extra precautions when outdoors.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has ordered all public schools in the state closed on Monday to protect children from dangerously cold weather.

Chicago schools will be open Monday despite the cold but officials, in a statement, advised parents to “use their own discretion in deciding whether to send their child to school.”

In Pittsburgh, the transition team for Mayor-elect Bill Peduto said his inauguration ceremony on Monday would be moved from the steps of the local government building to an indoor venue because of the weather.

Officials in Kentucky, which could see up to 8 inches of snow and freezing temperatures, were warning people to avoid road travel and stay indoors.

“If you don’t need to be out, stay in, stay home,” said Buddy Rogers, spokesman for Kentucky Emergency Management. “Take the pets inside and take the livestock inside the barns and make sure your elderly neighbors and friends are looked after.”

The storm comes on the heels of a massive winter weather system that slammed the Midwest and Northeast just after New Year’s Day, causing several deaths, grounding thousands of flights and forcing schools and government offices to close.

Missed flights

A total of 1,266 flights were canceled across the United States and 6,036 flights delayed on Saturday, with Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey among the most affected, according to tracking firm FlightAware.com.

Molly Cox, who was in New York City for New Year’s Eve, said she missed her Friday night flight home to Denver because LaGuardia Airport was “a disaster.”

“I was told I wouldn’t be able to get a flight out until Sunday,” she said. “With all the cancellations, all of the airlines seem to be having this kind of chaos.”

Boston was especially hard-hit by the first major storm of 2014, logging about 18 inches of snow on Friday, while some towns north of New England’s largest city saw close to 2 feet of accumulation.

But life has begun to return to normal in Boston. The city lifted its snow emergency at 5 p.m. Friday.

New York City got about 7 inches and was slammed with overnight air temperatures hovering under the freezing mark. Washington received more than 2 inches of snow in the storm, Philadelphia roughly 5 inches and Hartford 7 inches.

Weather-related deaths

The weather was a factor in several deaths and hundreds of reported road accidents. A 22-year-old man in Connecticut died on Friday when his car slammed into a Department of Transportation truck, state police said. In Ohio, authorities say at least two people were killed on Thursday in weather-related crashes.

In Green Bay, Wis., the temperature plummeted to minus 18 degrees Fahrenheit on Friday, breaking a record for the date set in 1979, according to the National Weather Service.

With the new frigid air moving in, a National Football League wild card playoff game between the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field was expected to rank among the coldest matches on record, local officials said.

Reuters writer Victoria Cavaliere contributed to this report.

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