Polar Vortex Moves on to Northeast

February 3, 2023

Pretty cold here in Michigan right now (beautiful, by the way), but nothing compared to what is moving into the Northeast.


A potent cold snap descending on New England Friday morning that’s expected to last into early Sunday threatens to bring wind chills approaching record low levels.

Threat level: With wind chills forecast to reach -10°F in New York City, -33°F in Boston, and as low as -60°F in northern Maine on Saturday morning, the cold could be deadly for anyone caught outside for extended periods.

The big picture: The air mass across northern New England Friday night through the weekend will be the coldest in the Northern Hemisphere, with the possible exception of a portion of Siberia. 

  • Wind chill warnings are in effect for parts of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
  • “The core of the cold will pass over the Northeast and more specifically, northern New England,” the National Weather Service stated in a forecast discussion. “Wind chills into the minus 50s for northern parts of this region could be the coldest felt in decades.” 

Zoom in: The NWS warns that in such cold conditions, frostbite can occur on exposed skin in 10 minutes or less

  • Strong winds are accompanying the Arctic front, particularly in southern New England, where gusts up to 50 mph are anticipated into Friday afternoon and Friday night. At the same time, temperatures will be dropping all day, down into the single digits in Boston by evening, and below zero in northern New England.
  • Any power outages could knock out heat during frigid conditions. According to the NWS forecast office in Boston, temperatures there are likely to be comparable to a cold snap in February of 2016, when the city hit -9°F. But areas to the north will be far colder. 
  • In northern New England, winds may also howl out of the Northwest into Saturday, particularly in northern Maine.

Threat level: Boston Public Schools are closed Friday due to the cold, and authorities across New England are opening warming shelters for residents. The city has also declared a cold emergency. 

The cold outbreak comes courtesy of a lobe of the tropospheric polar vortex, which is distinct from the polar vortex that is present at higher altitudes in the stratosphere. 

  • This region of extreme cold will rotate south from Hudson Bay, accompanied by a powerful cold front with snow squalls and strong winds beginning late Thursday night and Friday morning.

NBC 29 Charlottesville:

The mayor of Austin, Texas, responded to mounting criticism and apologized Friday for a lack of communication with residents as a winter storm coated the city in ice and cut power — and heat — to thousands of residents for days.

The weather finally started to moderate Friday and bring some relief to frustrated Texans, particularly in Austin, where at any given time 30% of customers in the city of nearly a million were without electricity since the storm hit early this week.

“The city let its citizens down. The situation is unacceptable to the community, and it’s unacceptable to me,” Mayor Kirk Watson, a Democrat, said at a news conference. “And I’m sorry.”

Meanwhile, a new wave of frigid weather that forecasters warned could be the coldest in decades began rolling into the Northeast, leading communities to close schools and open warming centers. Wind chills in some higher elevations could punch below minus 50 (minus 45 Celsius).

In Texas, Austin officials compared damage from fallen trees and iced-over power lines to tornadoes as they came under criticism for slow repairs and shifting timelines to restore power. Nearly 240,000 customers across the state lacked power early Friday, down from 430,000 on Thursday, according to PowerOutage.us.


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