The frigid weather gripping New England should begin to ease next week when temperatures in Greater Hartford are expected to rise to a balmy 25 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.
But until then, it’s going to be brutal and people should be wary of subzero wind chills. There’s a 50-50 percent chance of snow Saturday.
Early Friday, the combination of wind and temperature was in the range of zero to 10 below, the National Weather Service said. The wind will continue to blow into the afternoon.
A high in the upper teens and a low of about 8 is forecast for Friday. At 3:45 a.m., the temperature in Tolland was 4 degrees.
One to 2 inches of snow may fall this weekend, mostly after 10 a.m. Saturday, the weather service said. The cold will continue, with the high temperature only reaching the lower 20s.
“We have an arctic high pressure system that’s pushing all of the cold air from the arctic over New England and it’s just sitting on us,” said Lenore Correia, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Taunton, Mass. “It’s taking its sweet time to move on.”
The National Weather Service is predicting temperatures will not go above 20 degrees in Boston for seven consecutive days. Temperatures could go above 20 degrees on Saturday at Bradley International Airport, then drop down into the teens again Sunday and Monday.
A high of 14 and a low of 0 are forecast for Sunday, and a high of 12 and a low of 3 for Monday.
Still, it could be worse. Weather observers at the Mount Washington Observatory in New Hampshire posted a video showing weather observer Adam Gill emptying a pitcher of boiling water into the air and it turning instantly to snow. With the temperature at 31 degrees below zero and hurricane force winds, the wind chill was 84 degrees below zero. Observers atop New England’s highest peak said a new temperature record was set Thursday when the mercury dipped to 34 degrees below zero. The previous record was -31 degrees, set in 1933.
The sustained cold in Greater Hartford won’t be setting any records. Temperatures did not rise above 20 degrees for 10 straight days at Bradley in 1961.
“We don’t really see this every year, but it’s not that uncommon,” Correia said.
“Wind chills are going to be pretty bad continuing through the weekend and continuing into New Year’s Eve as well, Correia said. Frostbite can set in on exposed skin within 30 minutes.
Temperatures should rise to about 25 degrees by Wednesday and 27 on Thursday, she said.
Up to an inch of light snow could fall on the Hartford area Friday night into Saturday, she said.
Many communities have opened warming centers for people seeking refuge from the cold. In Hartford, police are reaching out to homeless people to get them to a warm place.
For many, the cold weather is part of life in New England and no big deal.
Steve Poulin of Kensington was at Hammonasset State Park in Madison on Thursday walking his dog along a beach that in the summer is packed with people. Poulin said he actually seeks out such days as Thursday.
"I love the solitude," he said as he walked his dog. "We both do. It's cold, but as long as you dress properly it's not a big deal. You just don't want to stay out too long especially with this wind."
George Russo said he comes to the beach on his daily run.
"Each season has its pluses and minuses,” he said. “I don't mind it. As long as your blood is flowing, you can get through it."
Another man walked along the beach with two metal detectors, one in each arm. He said he found a few coins, "but no warmth."
The bitter cold has been welcomed by those who like ice fishing. Extreme cold helps thicken ice on ponds and lakes. Warm winters the past few years failed to freeze ponds and lakes with enough ice for people to be safe.
"Stuff has been flying out the last few days, " Vennie Mangiaracina said from behind the counter of her bait and tackle store, The Fishin’ Factory in Southington.
People are buying tip-ups, augers to cut holes in ice, bait, hooks, jogging rods, hand warmers and anything else needed to stand on ice and cut a hole through it to fish for perch, sunfish, bass, catfish, rock bass and anything else.
"We suffered the last five years with warm winters with maybe only a week or less of ice,” she said. “Last year was awful. It was so warm I remember people wore shorts to midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. This cold spell has been remarkable. We even ran out of augers and will get more tomorrow."
Uriah James of Bristol was stocking up on hooks and other tackle for an ice fishing trip Friday to Wolcott's Cedar Lake. “The ice is 6 1/2 inches thick today,” James said. “Probably will be 8 inches tomorrow. This is great. I couldn't ice fish in Connecticut last winter or the one before. I had to go a buddy's place in Maine to ice fish last year."
Not everyone was out in the bitter cold by choice. Jeffrey Perez of Waterbury and Calvert London of Stratford were about 40 feet in the air atop a boom lift installing upgraded lighting on the I-84 Aetna viaduct at Flower Street Thursday afternoon.
“It’s especially bad,” Perez said, referring to the frigid temperatures and steady wind. He and his colleague overcome the cold with plenty of layers, two pairs of socks and breaks in the cab of their truck to warm up.
Hand warmers help too, London said.
To ensure there’s plenty of fuel to keep furnaces firing, the state Department of Motor Vehicles has granted a waiver to allow drivers of fuel trucks to work beyond time limits. The waiver applies to deliveries within Connecticut of heating oil, propane, diesel fuel, kerosene and gasoline and began at 1 p.m. Thursday and extends through Jan. 19.
“With severe cold like this, there's a huge demand on the heating oil business,” DMV spokesman Bill Seymour said. “They asked for a waiver so that they could make these important, critical deliveries.” Such waivers are common during extreme cold, he said.
Frigid temperatures typically mean an increase in water main breaks. The MDC’s Kerry Martin said freezing ground can cause heaves that break water mains. MDC crews were working Thursday afternoon to repair an 87-year-old 8-inch water main on Wintonbury Avenue in Bloomfield. Repairs were completed by about 5 p.m.
The cold can cause trouble with pipes inside buildings as well.
Carol Hanover, risk control field director at Travelers, suggested setting heat no lower than 55 degrees and opening doors to unoccupied rooms so that heat can circulate. The temperature inside walls where water pipes are located can be colder than living spaces, she said. Opening cabinets where pipes are located can also help to circulate warm air into the spaces.
Should pipes break, it’s important to know where a home’s water shutoff valve is located and where pipes are, Hanover said. For more tips, Travelers has a webpage with advice.
The cold is bad news for pets too. Cats and dogs can suffer frostbite in the bitter cold, or worse.
In Toledo, Ohio, a dog was found frozen solid on a home’s porch. Inside, Toledo humane society investigators found a second dog that was shivering. Toledo’s high temperature Thursday was in the teens.
AAA said the cold caused a surge in calls for service. As of 9:45 p.m. Thursday, AAA had received more than 1,650 calls for emergency roadside service.
Courant staff writers Christine Dempsey, Bill Leukhardt and Don Stacom contributed to this report, and an Associated Press report is included.