Mount Washington experiences record-setting wind chill

By MARK PRATT

Associated Press

Published: 02-05-2023 2:45 PM

BOSTON — The Arctic air that descended on the Northeast on Saturday brought dangerously cold sub-zero temperatures and wind chills to the region, including a record-setting wind chill of minus 108 degrees Fahrenheit on the summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire.

Temperatures got so low that authorities in Massachusetts took the unusual step of keeping the South Station transit hub open overnight so homeless people had a safe place to sleep. Several cities in the Northeast set or tied record low temperatures for the date, while the high winds brought down a tree branch on a car in Southwick, killing an infant.

“I can’t remember it being this cold, not since 2015,” said Gin Koo, 36, wrapped up in three shirts and a down jacket, as well as a hat and a hood, as he walked his Boston terrier, Bee, in Boston on Saturday morning. Even Bee, wrapped in a doggie coat, shivered. “I wouldn’t go out if I didn’t have to.”

Paul Butler, 45, who has been homeless since he was evicted in December 2021, took shelter in South Station.

“This is the coldest I ever, ever remember, and I worked the door at a bunch of clubs for 15 years,” said the former Marine.

The Arctic air reached the region just as a rapid cyclogenesis developed over Labrador and Newfoundland, churning up powerful winds, meteorologist Donald Dumont at the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine, said Friday, explaining the temperature plunge.

A cyclogenesis refers to an intensification of a cyclone or low-pressure storm system.

The Mount Washington Observatory at the peak of the Northeast’s highest mountain, famous for its extreme weather conditions, also recorded an actual temperature of minus 47 Fahrenheit, tying an observatory record set in 1934 and a wind gust of 127 mph (204 kmh).

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Across the rest of the region, wind chills — the combined effect of wind and cold air on exposed skin — dropped to as low as minus 45 to minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit, the National Weather Service reported.

The current method to measure wind chill has been used since 2001.

In Southwick, the winds brought a tree branch down on a vehicle driven by a 23-year-old Winsted, Connecticut woman on Friday, according to the Hampden District Attorney’s Office. The driver was taken to the hospital with serious injuries, but the infant died, authorities said.

Boston’s Pine Street Inn, the largest provider of homeless services in New England, ramped up outreach to those on the streets, doubling the number of vehicles that could transport people to shelters and opening their lobby to provide extra space.

“On a night like last night, the biggest concern is the people who have compromised judgment,” President and CEO Lyndia Downie said Saturday of people who have substance use disorder or mental illness. “On these cold nights, they are not thinking at 100% of their capacity. Those are the people we are most worried about.”

The emergency room at Massachusetts General Hospital treated several people for hypothermia overnight and a couple were admitted for frostbite.

“The reason that people unfortunately end up with severe frostbite in most cases is just because they don’t have anywhere warm and safe to go,” said Dr. Ali Raja, deputy chair of the emergency department.

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