If there was any doubt about just how brutal Friday's conditions were in New England, look no further than New Hampshire's Mount Washington Observatory, where a wind chill of minus 101 degrees Fahrenheit was recorded.
And it's hardly an isolated case. Much of New England is dealing with a dangerous blast of winter. And a large swath of the nation, from the Great Lakes to the East Coast, and from the Mid-Atlantic to the U.S.-Canada border is facing extreme weather, too, as blizzards, snow squalls and hurricane-force winds were reported.
In Southwick, Massachusetts, just outside Springfield, a storm was blamed in the death of an infant who was killed when winds knocked down a tree that fell and struck the vehicle the baby was in. The 23-year-old mother of the infant sustained serious injuries. The baby’s gender and age were not immediately available.
Wind chill, a figure that represents the feels-like temp, reached the triple-digit mark at the nonprofit observatory on the mountaintop at 5:09 p.m., as wind gusts topped 100 mph.
A National Weather Service chart showing probable wind chills for Mount Washington didn’t include the expected minus 107, because the number was “off our official wind chill chart,” it said — there was no room for such an extreme number.
The wind chills forecast for Maine and beyond for late Friday and early Saturday can cause frostbite on exposed skin in just 10 minutes. Even if bundled up, the extreme cold can be dangerous for someone who’s outside for an extended period.
Which is why warming centers have been opened across the region.
Wind chills of minus 35 degrees could be felt along the coasts of Maine and minus 45 in the foothills, the governor’s office said in warning residents to stay prepared and safe.
“Frostbite and hypothermia are real risks when temperatures are this extreme,” Nirav D. Shah, the director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a statement.
The coastal wind chills of minus 40 to minus 45 degrees along Maine's coast could be the coldest some Mainers have ever felt.
"Although unofficial, from the records we have been able to gather, the coldest wind chill in Portland since 1948 was -43 degrees in 1971, so we are nearing wind chills values that most have not seen in their lifetime," the weather service said in a forecast discussion.
By early evening Friday that figure for Portland had dropped to minus 38, and it had plenty of time to continue to descend, with temps usually hitting bottom in the late evening to early morning, meteorologist Sarah Thunberg said.
A wind chill warning was in effect through 7 p.m. Saturday in Caribou. In the state capital, Augusta, the warning was active until at least 1 p.m. Saturday.
Other northeastern states were preparing and warning residents.
Massachusetts’ emergency management agency warned of dangerous cold late Friday and into Saturday, and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said the cold could be life-threatening.
Power companies, including National Grid and Central Maine Power, said they were preparing for the sub-zero temperatures.
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New York City’s Friday night low was forecast at 9 degrees, and the city’s emergency management department warned of wind chills that could be minus 5 degrees.
In Boston, a low of minus 8 degrees was forecast for Friday night. Wind chills could reach 35 below zero, the weather service said. Boston closed schools Friday to protect students.
A wet winter storm that hit the West Coast swept across the nation earlier in the week, drawing in the omnipresent polar vortex and its icy climes, forecasters said. One reason moderate temperatures were expected to rebound rapidly, expected to exit by Sunday, is that the extreme cold may have broken off more than it can chew, said National Weather Service lead meteorologist Michael Cempa.
"There’s no more warm air left in the polar regions anymore," he said. "There's nothing up north to replace it."
The warnings about the Arctic blast forecast for the Northeast come as a deadly ice storm that caused misery in Texas wound down Thursday.
On Friday, the city and county of Austin, Texas, made disaster declarations in the wake of the storm, streamlining state and federal aid for recovery.
But the effects persisted there. More than 197,000 homes and businesses in the state remained without power Friday night, mostly in central and northeastern Texas, according to PowerOutage.us.
Nearly 29,000 customers were without power after nightfall in New York state and Massachusetts, according to the grid-monitoring website.
CORRECTION (Feb. 4, 2023, 6:28 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated the location of Mount Washington’s observatory. It’s at the summit of Mount Washington, not in North Conway. It also misstated the feels-like temperature. The wind chill was minus 101 degrees, not 101 degrees below freezing.