Arctic blast breaks US wind-chill record

People bundle up as they shield themselves from cold winds, in New York City. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK - An Arctic blast that brought “frostquakes” to parts of the United States saw the country record its lowest-ever wind-chill temperature, said meteorologists on Saturday.

Atop Mount Washington in the north-eastern state of New Hampshire, the wind-chill factor reached minus 78 deg C overnight, said the National Weather Service (NWS).

The service’s office in the town of Gray, Maine, said in a tweet that it set a new record for the lowest wind-chill temperature in the country.

CNN reported that it broke the previous record of minus 76 deg C set in Alaska.

The previous low at Mount Washington was minus 74 deg C, recorded there in 2004, The Weather Channel said.

At almost 1,920m, Mount Washington is the highest peak in the north-eastern US and is known for having some of the world’s worst weather.

Temperatures of minus 43 deg C and wind gusts of over 170kmh combined for the historic low.

The NWS office in Caribou, Maine, said a wind chill of minus 51 deg C was recorded in the small town of Frenchville, just south of the border with Canada.

The office said they had received reports of “frostquakes”, also called “cryoseisms”, in the region.

“Just like earthquakes, (they) generate tremors, thundering sensations. These are caused by sudden cracks in frozen soil or underground water when it’s very cold,” the NWS office wrote on Twitter.

Ahead of the blast, it had warned of an “epic, generational Arctic outbreak”.

NWS said the chills would be “something northern and eastern Maine has not seen since similar outbreaks in 1982 and 1988”.

“Most stations are forecast to see their lowest wind chills in decades or, in some cases, the lowest-ever recorded,” the service added.

It warned that frostbite to exposed skin can occur within five minutes in such conditions.

“The dangers of being caught unprepared without shelter from the elements and without proper winter survival gear cannot be stressed enough,” the service wrote.

Steam rises from Boston Harbour as temperatures reach minus 14 deg C in Boston, Massachusetts, on Feb 4, 2023. PHOTO: AFP

NWS said the blast brought temperatures 10 to 30 deg F below average over parts of the US North-east and the coastal Mid-Atlantic.

Extreme weather warnings covering several million people were in effect across much of New England, Quebec and eastern Canada.

A wind-chill factor of minus 41 deg C was measured at Montreal International Airport.

The Hydro Quebec energy company said the polar blast had sparked record-high electricity consumption late on Friday and urged customers to turn down their heating by a degree or two.

In New York City, a “code blue” regulation was in effect, meaning no homeless shelter could turn anyone anyway.

In New York’s Central Park, the mercury dipped to minus 16 deg C, NWS said.

Wind-chill temperatures fell below minus 34 deg C in Boston, where public schools were closed on Friday as a precautionary measure.

Warmer air is due to move into the region late on Sunday. AFP

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