Fierce wind and biting cold kept youngsters home from school Tuesday in upstate New York and authorities warned against perilous driving conditions already blamed for at least five deaths.
The National Weather Service posted a wind chill advisory for northern New York and Vermont, saying the temperature and wind could make it feel like 35 degrees below zero into Tuesday afternoon.
In those conditions, exposed skin can be frostbitten within 15 minutes or less, the weather service warned.
“It’s the wind. It’s so cold it hurts. You see the sun shining and it doesn’t look like a bad day but then as you’re walking you get hit with this blast and you can’t breathe,” said Ben Nestor, 17, who was huddled with four friends waiting for a bus in downtown Syracuse.
“We came downtown to eat lunch. I wished we had stayed home. My legs are frozen,” he said.
By late morning, the temperature at the northern New York city of Massena was 11 below zero and the wind chill was 34 below, the weather service said. Burlington, Vt., had a temperature of 5 below and a wind chill down to minus 32.
In New Hampshire, National Weather Service meteorologist Bob Marine said nearly all the state would have near-record cold temperatures on Tuesday. At the summit of Mount Washington, where temperatures bottomed out at 37 degrees below zero Tuesday morning, weather observers were throwing pots of boiling water in the air to make snow.
“When it’s this cold, it immediately freezes into a cloud of snow,” observer Jim Salge said.
Schools canceled classes across New York state from Buffalo to Utica, including Rochester and Syracuse, and other districts delayed the start of classes.
For some areas, it was the second day of hazardous driving conditions caused by blowing snow. On Monday, sections of Interstate 490 in Rochester and Interstate 81 along the eastern edge of Lake Ontario were closed because of accidents blamed on whiteout conditions. Some roads in central New York remain closed Tuesday morning.
Officials in Seneca County, in the Finger Lakes region, issued an emergency declaration and prohibited unnecessary travel.
Crashes Monday killed a 17-year-old driver from Chittenango, a 47-year-old man from Amboy whose vehicle hit a jackknifed tractor-trailer, and two people involved in eight-vehicle accident on the New York State Thruway near Canajoharie. Another woman who stopped in a whiteout and got out of her parked car Monday was killed by a tractor-trailer, authorities said.
“The bad spots sneak up on you,” said Gina Calabresee, of Elbridge, 10 miles west of Syracuse.
“You’re driving along and the road is clear and then suddenly the road is packed snow, the wind is pushing your car around and you can’t see past the front end,” she said. “I have two friends who put their cars in ditches.”