Jul 01, 2023

Northeast Deep Freeze: Brutal Cold Sweeps Across New York and New England

Temperatures plunged far below zero in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont as residents hunkered down and shelters hurried to make extra space. Mount Washington set a record for coldest wind chill ever recorded at minus 108 degrees.

Jenna Russell

People across the northeastern United States confronted the coldest temperatures seen in decades on Saturday, as an Arctic air mass passed over the region, accompanied by powerful winds that drove wind chills to dangerous levels.

Frigid conditions demolished records set more than a century ago in Boston and Providence, where lows hit minus 10 and minus 9 degrees Fahrenheit early Saturday, the National Weather Service reported. Temperatures plunged to 4 degrees in New York City, minus 6 in Hartford, Conn., and minus 15 in Concord, N.H., with the wind making it feel much colder everywhere.

At least one death was attributed to the weather system. In western Massachusetts on Friday, a tree fell and crushed a vehicle in Southwick, west of Springfield, and killed an infant passenger. The 23-year-old driver, the victim's aunt, suffered serious injuries, according to a statement from the office of the district attorney in Hampden County.

At the summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire, the region's highest peak, the low of minus 47 degrees at 4 a.m. Saturday tied the previous record set in 1934. Wind chills approached minus 110 degrees, and were likely among the coldest ever recorded, though staff at the weather observatory atop the 6,288-foot peak said they do not keep long-term wind chill data, and could not confirm the record.

Venturing outside onto the mountain to track the system Friday, Francis Tarasiewicz, a staff meteorologist at the Mount Washington Observatory, encountered wind that sounded like a roaring freight train. "There were pieces of ice flying around, lots of ducking and dodging," he said. "I had a tiny, millimeter-wide area of skin exposure, and it felt like a bee sting."

Conditions moderated by late Saturday, and the deep cold was expected to subside by Sunday. In the meantime, government officials opened warming shelters, issued warnings about frostbite and hypothermia, and urged people to stay inside. Saturday morning, 18,000 customers in Maine and New York State were without electricity, according to the website; by afternoon, power had been restored to all but 5,000.

"This is one of the coldest events that we’ve seen in years," said Miro Weinberger, the mayor of Burlington, Vt. "We’re encouraging people to stay indoors."

Mayor Michelle Wu of Boston declared a cold emergency through Sunday, while in New York, a Code Blue was in effect, meaning that no one seeking shelter would be denied.

Concern about the fate of people living on the streets spurred an all-hands outreach effort in Boston, where dozens of city and agency workers fanned out last week to urge those without housing to plan for the cold. In the end, only 10 people chose to spend Friday night outdoors in the city's largest tent encampment, while more than 100 others were safely sheltered, said Tania Del Rio, director of the city's coordinated response team.

"We were very worried," Ms. Del Rio said. "We know these people by name. We know their stories and we care about them, and we know some people would rather stay outside."

In Portland, Maine, a shelter set up to serve 75 people saw 92 show up seeking warmth overnight on Friday and into Saturday morning, a city spokeswoman said. Chairs were set up to accommodate the extra turnout.

Inside Boston's South Station, the downtown train hub that was left unlocked to provide emergency shelter overnight on Friday and Saturday, it was quiet early Saturday morning, though busy. Dozens of people covered in sleeping bags, quilts, fibrous blankets, and even trash bags lined up, sleeping, against the walls and on the benches of the station. Others, waiting for delayed trains, stood in front of the schedule board.

Rosie DeQuattro and Jerry Berke, of Maine, were there to catch a train to New York, where they planned to see a play. Mindful of the risk of frozen pipes, they opened all their kitchen cabinet doors before leaving home, to keep warm air circulating, and didn't turn their heat down like they normally would before a trip.

The core of the Arctic air mass passed over northern New England, where residents pride themselves on cold-weather endurance. But the combination of frigid cold and high winds forced some to make rare accommodations.

Wildcat Mountain, a 4,000-foot peak in New Hampshire's White Mountains, closed to skiers for a second consecutive day on Saturday, citing risks from the adverse conditions. Other ski mountains, including Sugarloaf in western Maine, where the temperature was minus 21 at 9 a.m. Saturday, limited chairlift operations.

The National Weather Service in Caribou, Maine, said in a tweet on Friday that it had received reports of "frostquakes," tremors in the earth, similar to earthquakes but caused by sudden cracks in frozen soil.

In Burlington, Vt. the annual Penguin Plunge — in which participants leap into icy Lake Champlain to raise money for the Special Olympics — was canceled and replaced with safer, remote activities. An opening event Friday night for the Quebec Winter Carnival, which draws tens of thousands of people to outdoor activities in the Canadian city, was also canceled.

Still, for some New Englanders who have lamented the milder temperatures and lack of snow so far this winter, the cold snap meant a brief return to beloved winter hobbies before temperatures skyrocket back up next week. Highs near 50 degrees are expected in Boston on Monday.

Adam Zlatkus, 31, headed out with skates and hockey stick to a frozen pond in Boston's Public Garden for several hours Saturday morning, unbothered by the cold. Before this weekend, he said, the weather had been too warm for the pond to ice over properly.

"I actually took off a layer," he said.

Across the northern reaches of the region — and even in parts of Manhattan — some expressed a stoicism about the cold.

Marco Nasso, 38, was bundled in a fluffy hood as he walked his similarly dressed dog, Cesar, in Midtown Manhattan on Saturday morning. Mr. Nasso, who hails from Italy, seemed largely unfazed by the chill.

"That's how it's supposed to be, winter in New York," he said with a shrug, adding that it hadn't affected his weekend plans. "There's people living in Alaska!"

In New Hampshire, too, many residents brushed aside the wintry weather. Navigating the discomfort without fuss is part of their Granite State identity, some said.

"It's brutal, but it's what I signed up for, and I love it," said one Durham postal worker as she headed out to make deliveries on Saturday.

In Millinocket, Maine, the cold drove some to desperate measures. Kelly Gardner, a physician assistant, said she and her family usually ski, ice fish or play in the snow on winter weekends. The prospect of staying indoors instead, with three active kids under the age of 6, was more than she wanted to manage.

"We’re headed to a hotel with a pool in Bangor with friends for an overnight," Ms. Gardner said.

Reporting was contributed by Amanda Pirani in New Hampshire, Ken Sturtz in upstate New York, Camille Baker and Téa Kvetenadze in New York City, Colleen Cronin and Cyerrah Walker in Boston, Siobhan Neela-Stock in Vermont, and Alicia Anstead and Polly Saltonstall in Maine.

An earlier version of this article misattributed a quotation to a spokeswoman for the mayor of Burlington, Vt. Mayor Miro Weinberger said, "This is one of the coldest events that we’ve seen in years," not Samantha Sheehan.

How we handle corrections

Alicia Anstead

Thomas Malcolm, the fire chief in Millinocket, Maine, said his community had stepped up, with neighbors looking out for each other. Millinocket was "doing well," he said. "All groups seem to come together in situations like this." he said. Chief Malcolm added that residents were checking on elderly neighbors and school counselors were reaching out to families that might be struggling.

Alicia Anstead

In Castine, Maine, a village midway up the state's coastline, newcomers adjusted to the shock of the frigid winter weather. "It's a Maine hazing," said Matt Powell, 32, who moved to town last summer from New York City with his partner, George Trinovitch, 33, after they purchased the Pentagoet Inn, a Victorian structure on Main Street. "Like when we got stranded at sea and had to row back. This is Part 2."

Anushka Patil

The wind chill at the summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire reached what meteorologists said was the lowest level on record in the United States overnight: minus 108 degrees. Other parts of the Northeast reported record lows, too.

Here are some of the other records set by the Arctic air mass sweeping over the region:

The Blue Hill Observatory in Milton, Mass., which maintains one of the longest climate records in the nation, recorded minus 13.9 degrees early Saturday morning, beating the previous record low for Feb. 4: minus 4 degrees in 1886 and 1908. The weather on Saturday was within 7 degrees of the lowest temperatures ever measured at the observatory, it said.

Boston set a new daily record of minus 10 degrees on Saturday, breaking the previous record of minus 2 degrees set in 1886, the National Weather Service reported. It was the city's first double-digit negative temperature since 1957.

The island of Nantucket in Massachusetts reached minus 3 degrees, tying a record low that was set in 2004 and 1962, the National Weather Service said.

Albany, N.Y., tied a record low for Feb. 4 that was previously set in 1978, with minus 13 degrees, the National Weather Service said. It was the lowest temperature in the city since Feb. 14, 2016.

The Eastern Region headquarters of the National Weather Service shared more than a dozen other new daily records for Feb. 4:

Several low temperature records for February 4th were broken or tied across the Northeast this morning.

Joe Klementovich

Conditions were especially icy at the Mount Washington Valley Ice Climbing Festival on Saturday, a yearly event held in North Conway, N.H. Paul McCoy, the owner of International Mountain Climbing School, said only three people had canceled as of Friday afternoon. The event coordinators made sure participants had plenty of extra jackets to stay warm and the locations were chosen to minimize wind exposure. The hardy group of climbers cheered each other along, even in the below-zero temps.

Colleen Cronin

The record-breaking cold did not stop some Boston residents from running errands, venturing out to help homeless people or skating on the thick ice covering the pond in the Boston Public Gardens.

Adam Zlatkus, of Quincy, Mass., said he was on the ice for the first time this winter. Before the current Arctic blast pushed temperatures down below zero this week, the weather had been too mild for the garden's pond to ice over enough for hockey practice.

Mr. Zlatkus, 31, who plays hockey in the Boston Metro League, said he was skating with his hockey stick from 9:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday. The cold didn't bother him too much. "I actually took off a layer," he said.

Daniel Strick, 24, of Brookline, also was on the ice for the first time this winter. Last year, he said, the ice was so thin that it had cracked under him. "I fell in last year," Mr. Strick said. "And I am back out here again."

Tatsu Sato, who moved to the Boston area from Japan in April, said after an hour of skating with his bundled-up children that Japan's weather was slightly milder than Boston's.

"It's a bit too cold," he said, before taking his son Haru, 8, and his daughter, Chisaki, 6, back to his car to warm up. The children waddled to the car in matching puffy green coats and pink snow pants.

In another part of the park, two workers from the Pine Street Inn homeless shelter, Michael Bunch and Emma Reading, were looking for people who might need a warm place to stay during the cold weather.

The two aid workers spent much of Saturday checking inside tents and under tarps, looking for people who may have hypothermia. "We want to make sure people are breathing," Ms. Reading said.

Mr. Bunch said that there were still some people trying to survive the cold outside, but most of them had tents and warm bedding.

Some people outside who appeared to be unable to take care of themselves or who lacked the right equipment for cold weather had been persuaded to be transported to shelters, he said. A few had to be forcibly taken. "We’re actually not seeing a lot of people," he said.

The Boston Public Library offered free coffee, hand warmers and hats on Saturday to people who came in for a reprieve from the cold.

Taylor Morris, a social worker at the library, checked on visitors who might be homeless and in need of a place to go when the building closes in the evening. She worked with charities and government agencies to find a place to sleep for them.

One person was camped outside under a quilt and a tarp surrounded by their belongings. The person fumbled with the coverings to keep them from blowing down in the wind.

Anthony Lanier, a resident of Cohasset, made his way into the city for a book sale at the library, which was canceled, and a trip to a cannabis shop near Faneuil Hall. Having lived in Massachusetts for 32 years, he said he has become accustomed to New England winters.

Even if his errands didn't work out, Mr. Lanier said he was glad he had come out on the cold day. "I’m just an adventurer. I’ll just go out to say I did it," he said.

Kenneth Sturtz

The cold wasn't going to stop Billy Martin's Cole All-Star Circus from reaching Malone, N.Y., near the Canadian border, where it had a Saturday show scheduled at the local high school.

Mr. Martin, 63, is the owner, ringmaster and sound-and-lighting technician for the 12-person troupe. Most circuses are fair-weather operations that tour from the spring through the fall, but Mr. Martin's circus traverses between New York and Pennsylvania each winter, working with school groups that sell circus tickets to raise money.

Most of the circus performers stay in campers while touring. Mr. Martin and his wife, Angela, who is an aerialist in the show, have a 41-foot fifth-wheel trailer that they call home on the road.

Touring during the winter presents additional challenges. There's the ever-present threat of schools closing for snow days. Mr. Martin said he has had to lead the circus's caravan of vehicles through treacherous blizzards to make it to shows on time. And the two-box trucks that haul the equipment for the show run on diesel fuel, which sometimes gels up in the cold.

The trailers have to be winterized to keep things from freezing, and the performers always have to keep extra propane tanks on hand for heat.

"You jug water," Mr. Martin said. "You have water jugs in the trailer to do dishes and things like that."

A native of Olean, N.Y., Mr. Martin said he grew accustomed to snow and the cold long ago. The trailers are also well insulated, and the performers don't find it difficult to stay warm.

"We have a propane furnace and electric fireplace," Mr. Martin said of his trailer. "We keep nice and toasty."

This season the circus is visiting 85 schools in a little over 12 weeks. It's a grueling pace, but Mr. Martin is used to it. He joined the circus right out of high school 46 years ago, and has owned this one since 1988.

The circus features aerialists and acrobats, juggling, and magic among other things. No animals are used in the show, which makes the traveling a little easier.

On Friday morning, when Mr. Martin woke up in Lowville, 25 miles southeast of Watertown, N.Y., the temperature was minus 11 degrees when he started his pickup. The circus had played at a local high school the night before, and he was enjoying a rare day off.

The circus pulled out of Lowville on Saturday morning for a 112-mile trip to its next show in Malone, where the wind chill was expected to be as low as minus 45 degrees.

The circus came to town around 9:40 a.m. and began transforming the sterile gymnasium at Franklin Academy High School into a circus wonderland, complete with a ring, backdrop and a kiosk selling snacks, toys and balloons.

Mr. Martin said they would soon be spinning 30-pound bags of sugar into cotton candy and making fresh popcorn for the 3 p.m. show. He said he expected families would pack the gymnasium Saturday afternoon, regardless of the cold.

Janice Chung

For people working and living in Queens on Saturday, the subway was a place to seek shelter from the severe Arctic chill. People lined up at vendors to warm their hands and faces over steamy drinks and hot meals. They hunkered down in stairwells and inside stations to be shielded from bitter wind gusts. And when the time came to exit the platform, they tried to steel themselves against the unwelcome blast of cold.

Jon Hurdle and Téa Kvetenadze

The frigid conditions in the Northeast on Saturday were not extreme enough to keep some visitors from enjoying the outdoors.

In Craftsbury, a small town in northern Vermont packed with hills and valleys, a hardy corps of cross-country skiers hit the trails despite a morning air temperature of minus 15 with a wind chill in the minus 30s.

"We stayed indoors for most of yesterday, but we’re back out today," said Michael Ramos, 71, who was visiting from Roanoke, Va., and had just completed a one-mile snowshoe circuit of a trail at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center. "Yesterday, we had 35-mile-an-hour winds. That makes a big difference."

A party of eight women who were from Vermont and Massachusetts also took advantage of the largely windless morning. They had wondered upon arriving in Craftsbury on Friday evening whether skiing conditions would be bearable.

"Instead of my glasses being fogged up, they actually froze," said Mary Welford, 62, a lawyer from Manchester, Vt., recalling a short walk from her cabin to the dining hall.

But with a drop in the wind chill and with a modest rise in temperatures on Saturday, the group headed out, clad in many layers of clothing. The women had the Craftsbury trails largely to themselves.

Roughly 350 miles away, Bryant Park in Midtown Manhattan was bathed in sunlight and buzzing with activity late Saturday morning. Dozens of skaters glided across the ice rink; tourists gathered for selfies by a frozen fountain that dripped with glassy icicles; and workers in food stalls nearby huddled close to their space heaters.

Paige Young, a ballet dancer from Tampa, Fla., was there to celebrate her 24th birthday on a last-minute weekend trip with her boyfriend. She remained upbeat despite the harsh New York weather.

"We’re treating it like a vacation," she cheerfully explained. "I’m happy to be here."

Their plans include getting bagels and walking around New York "as much as we can bear it."

Cynthia Pedraza, 41, and Enna Banai, 44, also refused to let the chill put a damper on their visit to New York. The longtime friends planned to check out Central Park and the High Line, among other popular destinations.

Ms. Banai, a real estate agent from Atlanta, had lost her gloves and said the wind was "killing them," but the women were still laughing off the cold, each clutching a fresh cup of coffee as they walked near Times Square.

"It's worth it," said Ms. Pedraza, a yoga instructor from Portland, Ore. "At least it's sunny."

Elsewhere in Manhattan, Isabel Vance, 22, and Jordan Caudel, 23, were pushing through the chill on their visit from Cincinnati.

"I think there's something super special about coming here in the winter and having to endure the cold," Ms. Vance, a financial accountant, said. "I think it's just part of being in New York."

David Montgomery

Three days after the power went out in their home on the western edge of Austin, Texas, Andrea Ginder and her family were still camped out in a downtown hotel where they sought refuge from the ice storm that took over the nation's 11th-largest city.

On Saturday morning, nearly 77,000 customers in Austin still lacked power, including the Ginders.

"We’re just going to hang out downtown," Ms. Ginder said after calling her next-door neighbor and learning that she, her husband, their two children and their two dogs would have to remain nomads a while longer.

In February 2021, a monumental snowstorm with subfreezing temperatures caused a near collapse of the Texas power grid. This February catastrophe dealt severe icing that downed trees and electrical lines, leaving up to 170,000 customers without power earlier in the week.

Sunshine and rising temperatures have melted the ice, and emergency crews have restored power to more than 90,000 customers. But thousands were still waiting for the heat and lights to come back on and many, like the Ginders, were also without water.

The prolonged weather crisis has also destroyed roofs, damaged cars and left yards in Austin covered with fallen trees and broken limbs, resulting in an immense backlog of business for arborists and tree cutters. Neighborhoods across the city echoed with the whine of chain saws.

Anger over the slow pace of repairs has also caused a political crisis for Mayor Kirk Watson, who took office in January after years of service as a state senator for Austin. As he joined Andy Brown, the chief executive of Travis County, in issuing a disaster declaration on Friday, Mr. Watson apologized for what he considered an inadequate official response to the emergency.

"The city let its citizens down," Mr. Watson said. "And I’m sorry."

As of midmorning Saturday, the Ginders were still waiting, wondering if they would be out of their home for a fourth day. "I don't think it's acceptable that people can just be expected to just go on," Andrea Ginder said. "It's days without power and water now. It could have been worse, but at a certain point that sort of optimism wears thin."

Sophie Park

The Charles River in Boston froze as cold air from the Arctic delivered record-breaking low temperatures and wind chills across New England, frosting the riverbanks in white ice. As the water turns from slush to solid ice, water fowl flap to remove the icicles that form on their backs and wings.

Alicia Anstead

Kelly Gardner, a physician assistant, and Arthur Dickey, a contractor, live in Millinocket in central Maine with their three young children and usually ski, ice fish or play in the snow on winter weekends. They said the prospects of staying indoors all weekend with three active kids under the age of 6 was more than they wanted to manage. "We’re headed to a hotel with a pool in Bangor with friends for an overnight," Ms. Gardner said.

Polly Saltonstall

In far northern Maine, the deep freeze was so strong that some residents reported feeling the earth shake.

The air temperatures early Saturday morning in Caribou, in northeastern Maine, fell to minus 21 degrees, with wind chill temperatures dipping to around minus 48 degrees, according to the National Weather Service office in Caribou. The air temperatures recorded in Frenchville, near the border with New Brunswick, Canada, were as low as minus 23 degrees, according to the National Weather Service, with wind chills as low as minus 60 degrees.

In a post on Twitter Friday, the National Weather Service office in Caribou said that it had received reports of "frostquakes," which are tremors in the earth, similar to earthquakes, caused by sudden cracks in frozen soil.

We are getting Reports of hearing/feeling "Quakes" across the area. These are Frostquakes also called Cryoseisms. Just like Earthquakes, generate tremors, thundering sensations. These are caused by sudden cracks in frozen soil or underground water when its very cold. #MEwx #Maine

Frostquakes are more localized and pack less energy than an earthquake, according to the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. In some cases, people in houses a few hundred yards away from others who said they felt tremors do not notice anything.

Some cities in the state reported that warming centers set up especially for the cold snap had reached maximum capacity.

Jessica Grondin, a spokeswoman for Portland, in southern Maine, said in an email Saturday morning that the city had served 92 people overnight in a temporary warming shelter in the Salvation Army's gym. They had planned for a capacity of 75 but had to add chairs and be creative to make use of every inch of space.

Mike Ives

Average temperature forecast for Feb. 3-5




The polar vortex is a large, rotating expanse of cold air that usually occurs over the Arctic, but can get disrupted.

Cold air





Polar jet stream

Average from Feb. 3-5

Warm air

As the polar jet stream, which encircles the vortex, gets wavier, frigid air can push further south.

Average temperature forecast for Feb. 3-5




The polar vortex is a large, rotating expanse of cold air that usually occurs over the Arctic, but can get disrupted.

Cold air

Polar jet stream

Average from Feb. 3-5

Warm air

As the polar jet stream, which encircles the vortex, gets wavier, frigid air can push further south.

Average temperature forecast for Feb. 3-5




The polar vortex is a large, rotating expanse of cold air that usually occurs over the Arctic, but can get disrupted.

Cold air





Polar jet stream

Average from Feb. 3-5

Warm air

As the polar jet stream, which encircles the vortex, gets wavier, frigid air can push further south.

Source: Climate Reanalyzer, Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine, using forecasts from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction Global Forecast System.

The atmospheric culprit behind the cold snap in the Northeast this weekend — the polar vortex — has descended on the United States after bringing bitterly cold Arctic air to Asia last month.

The vortex, an expanse of cold, high-altitude air that generally circles the Arctic, occasionally shifts south from the North Pole. That causes temperatures to drop suddenly in the mid latitudes, as they did on Friday in Boston and New York City. (There is another vortex in the Antarctic, but it does not affect weather in the Northern Hemisphere.)

"It looks like quite an intense but short event is on its way" for the northeastern United States and Canada, Mark Howden, the director of the Institute for Climate, Energy and Disaster Solutions at the Australian National University, said on Saturday. "This is due to a significant lobe of the polar vortex stretching south over that region, bringing Arctic air with it."

People in Asia know the feeling. Last month, a vortex-related cold snap in Central Asia slowly moved eastward and caused an extreme cold spell that lasted for weeks, disrupting travel and putting a damper on Lunar New Year celebrations in East Asia. That weather event had weakened but not yet fully dissipated as of Saturday, Mr. Howden said.

Asia's January cold snap had a particularly deadly impact in Afghanistan, where the government attributed more than 160 deaths to it in January. According to the United Nations, the weather was dangerous for Afghanistan's most vulnerable people in part because a recent law barring women from aid work had prompted many nonprofits to suspend operations in the country.

The extreme cold weather also shattered at least one notable record.

On Jan. 22, as Arctic winds whipped across northern China, the country's northernmost city, Mohe, recorded a temperature of minus 63.4 degrees Fahrenheit, the coldest in its recorded history.

"It was so frosty outside," Zhang Hong, 53, who owns a pancake shop in Mohe, told The New York Times a few days later. "The wind was so brisk that it felt as though it was shaving your nose and face."

Kenneth Sturtz

Few workers were required to be outside in frigid Oswego, N.Y., and Jeremy Dolbear was thinking about how to keep warm while delivering the local newspaper, The Palladium-Times. The papers can't be flung out the window, so he would have to sprint out of his truck and hurry back. "It's pretty close to the coldest I can remember," he said.

Camille Baker

In Harlem, Marsheen Truesdale, 43, was walking his dog, Brachii. Both of them wore coats. "It's freezing," he said. "We’re just trying to get him out real quick. I usually take him for a longer walk, but it's too cold."

Colleen Cronin and Kenneth Sturtz

With temperatures plummeting and wind chills at historic lows overnight, homeless people around the region were among the most vulnerable. Cities have scrambled to provide them shelter.

In Boston, doors at South Station, the downtown train hub, were left unlocked all night for those who chose not to use the city's other shelters. In New York, a Code Blue was in effect, meaning that no one seeking shelter would be denied.

At a warming shelter in Oswego, 40 miles north of Syracuse, officials said they would keep the facility open round-the-clock through the weekend. That was good news for Will Donovan Jr., who was staying there Friday evening.

"There's homeless people out here who need someplace to go," he said. "Right now, I have nothing, no money."

The shelter has fifteen beds, but was turning no one away, said Melissa Salazar, an advocate for Victory Transformation, which runs the shelter. It was providing toiletries and showers, as well as shoes, socks and clothing to those who needed them.

At Boston's South Station, people were wrapped in their warmest clothing, huddled next to their suitcases and bags.

Dozens of people covered in sleeping bags, quilts, fibrous blankets, and even trash bags lined up, sleeping, against the walls and on the benches of the station. Others, waiting for delayed trains, stood in front of the schedule board.

A man who said his name was TJ, 34, wore several layers of pants to stay warm. He said arrived at the station at 9 p.m. on Friday night, after a brutal half-mile walk through the freezing weather. He has been homeless for about six months, he said, and this was the coldest weather he had experienced without a place to live.

On a typical night, the walk to South Station would take him about 10 minutes. On Friday, he said, he stopped so often to duck inside and warm up that it took him twice as long.

Téa Kvetenadze

On the crowded 168th St. subway platform in Washington Heights, at least one man didn't mind the cold on Saturday morning. "I love it," said Jon Gomez, 34. "The summers get way too hot here. I think the balance is necessary."

Lola Fadulu and Camille Baker

Temperatures dropped to 5 degrees in New York City early Saturday morning. The weather comes as New Yorkers had settled into a relatively mild winter, with the first snowfall coming later than usual.

Mayor Eric Adams declared a Code Blue, which means no one seeking shelter will be denied. But some New Yorkers were taking the cold in stride.

On Friday afternoon in Harlem, where a few clouds dotted a deep blue sky and powerful winds swept mercilessly down 125th Street, a mail carrier described her technique for staying warm.

"It's brutal, but OK if you keep your head, hands and neck covered," said Latoya McGeachy, 48, as she pushed a mail cart loaded with large bags through the Sugar Hill neighborhood.

"It's mostly layering," she said. "Then you’ll be all right."

Carlos Quiroz, 19, was working in a Covid-19 testing tent on the sidewalk. He said the space heater at his feet was enough to keep him comfortable during his eight-hour shift, though the wind threatened to carry away his plastic tent intermittently.

"I like winter — it's my favorite time of the year," he said as his tent shook violently in the high winds.

Francesca Paris and Aatish Bhatia

It's been cold — very, very cold.

Forecasts for Friday evening through Saturday morning showed extremely low temperatures and very high winds across the Northeast, expected to result in wind chills not seen in decades in some parts of the region.

If you live in New England and stepped outside to greet the weekend, you probably got a good sense of how unpleasant wind chill can be. But you may not know what the term means.

Wind chill was designed to approximate what the weather "feels like" to a person exposed to a specific combination of temperature and wind speed. (Scientists have actually placed people in a cold wind tunnel and measured the heat from their faces to gather this information.)

When temperatures drop and winds pick up, exposed skin loses heat more quickly. The lower the wind chill, the greater the risk of frostbite.

The chart below is intended to help provide some context. The background layer describes how fast a person could expect to experience frostbite if skin is exposed to certain combinations of temperature and wind speed. On top of that, we’ve added the coldest wind chill forecast from Friday afternoon through Saturday afternoon for 13 cities across the Northeast. (And we tacked on the tiny town of Jackman, Maine, not far from the Canadian border.)

At forecasted winds and temperatures in selected cities on Feb. 3 and Feb. 4

Note: Forecasts are shown for the coldest wind chill at each location in the 24 hours starting at 4 p.m. Eastern on Feb. 2.

Source: National Weather Service hourly forecast. Frostbite times from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

By Francesca Paris and Aatish Bhatia

In some of those places, like Manchester, N.H., and Caribou, Maine, the wind chills expected by the National Weather Service would mean you could experience frostbite in 10 minutes or less.

Lola Fadulu

Temperatures dropped precipitously and wind speeds rose across the Northeast early on Saturday, but no area could compete with the frigid conditions atop Mount Washington in New Hampshire.

At 6,288 feet, it is the highest peak in the Northeast and known for having some of the world's worst weather.

A new record for the coldest wind chill ever recorded, minus 108 degrees Fahrenheit, was set at the summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire, the region's highest peak, on Friday. The previous record was minus 103 degrees. The temperature atop the mountain reached as low as minus 47 degrees in the early hours of Saturday, which tied the previous record from 1934.

❄️💨❄️This is EXTREME WEATHER! Right now Mount Washington is living up to the reputation of having the worse weather in the world. INSANE conditions Temp -42° F, Wind Chill -101° F, Wind Gusts 127 mph! the summit cam 230-240pm. #OHwx #PAwx

In comparison, the coldest it got there on Thursday was minus 5 degrees. The average wind speed was 55 m.p.h., and the peak wind gust was 95 m.p.h.

Those tuning into the Mount Washington Observatory's tower camera could see blankets of snow, with structures at the peak whipped by wind.

Temperatures at the peak are expected to rise on Saturday morning, and will be around minus 15 degrees by sunset on Saturday. But winds will rise to above hurricane force and fog will return on Sunday, with isolated snow showers expected.

Venturing outside onto the mountain to track the system Friday, Francis Tarasiewicz, a staff meteorologist at the Mount Washington Observatory, encountered wind that sounded like a roaring freight train. "There were pieces of ice flying around, lots of ducking and dodging," he said. "I had a tiny, millimeter-wide area of skin exposure, and it felt like a bee sting."

Polly Saltonstall

While health officials in Maine urged residents to stay inside as the wind howled and temperatures dropped into negative territory on Friday, Dan and Deven Shay were out ice-fishing on Chickawaukie Pond in Rockland.

They erected a canvas pop-up tent at 9:30 a.m., set out baited hooks in holes they drilled through the ice, then sat inside the tent, which was kept warm by a portable propane heater, and waited for the fish to bite.

For lunch, the Shay brothers cooked up moose steaks and deer sausage. Outside, the wind pushed swirls of snow around and occasionally tripped one of the flags marking their lures, tricking them into thinking they had caught something. By midafternoon they had caught four brook trout, which they planned to smoke, and one largemouth bass. They said they were not bothered by the cold, and neither were the fish. Except, Dan Shay noted, when a fish was too small to keep, he had to get it back in the water fast because "otherwise their eyeballs freeze."

Deven Shay, 31, said none of the friends or relatives invited to accompany them accepted the offer. But that did not deter them.

"Everyone was telling us to stay inside, but we said, we’re going fishing," he said. "We’re true Mainers."

Deven Shay works at a fishermen's wharf in Friendship, Maine, buying and selling lobsters. Dan Shay, 33, is a welder for a local contractor.

Neither brother was sure if they would go fishing again on Saturday. Dan Shay said he might go out in the woods, instead, and look for deer antlers — this is the time of year when they shed them.

Jon Hurdle

In Greensboro, Vt., where the temperature had dropped to minus 9 degrees by early afternoon Friday, Larry Lumsden was not impressed.

Mr. Lumsden, 77, a retired dairy farmer, said it was often colder for longer in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s. The frigid temperatures were just something you adapted to and lived with.

"Today it's more like we used to have when we were growing up," he said in an interview at his kitchen table. "On a scale of one to 10, this is probably a two."

When he was farming a herd of about 50 dairy cattle, and temperatures fell to current levels, Mr. Lumsden said he would "put on a few more clothes," and allow the cows themselves to heat the barn to about 50 degrees, which is "just what they like," he said.

Mr. Lumsden's wife, Sherral, 72, also a lifelong Greensboro resident, recalled having to climb over snowbanks by Halloween. Now, lower snowfalls and higher temperatures create new problems, Ms. Lumsden said.

"We aren't getting the snowfalls which actually creates a problem because it doesn't help insulate the houses, and we aren't getting the moisture from the ground that we usually have in the springtime," she said.

At Willey's Store in Greensboro, Robert Hurst, the manager and owner, said customers stocked up on Thursday so they could stay home during the worst of the cold.

"Yesterday was a good day," he said. "It was busy because we had everyone coming in getting their stuff; today will probably be a below-average day for us because hopefully everyone is staying inside and staying safe," he said.

Mr. Hurst said he and his family would take steps to make sure their pipes didn't freeze and then just hunker down. "We will let the water run at a trickle, have the heat up a little bit, gather all our dogs together, and all sit on the couch and watch TV," he said.

Six miles away, in the town of Hardwick, two customers in sparsely populated Front Seat Coffee said the frigid temperatures had already forced them to cut back on normal activities.

"I am usually someone that is outside skiing and trying to be outside as much as possible, so it is funny being stuck inside today," said Anna Ramsey, 26, who is studying to be a nurse practitioner at the University of Vermont. "Zero degrees is typically my cutoff; this feels like it might be unhealthy for the lungs today," she said.

Amatista Keller-Angelo, 18, a high school senior in Hardwick, agreed.

"Vermonters are used to going outside every day but right now you can't really go outside for more than 10 minutes without getting frostbite," she said.

Ms. Keller-Angelo said the cold had stopped her from taking her dog for long walks, and discouraged her from going into the woods to identify trees for a botany class.

Still, she said, she was unwilling to put everything on hold because of the weather. "I live in Vermont," she said. "If I stopped whenever it was cold, I would never get anything done."

An earlier version of this article misspelled the first name of a longtime resident of Greensboro, Vt. She is Sherral Lumsden, not Cheryl.

How we handle corrections

Karen Zraick

As an Arctic blast bombards the Northeastern United States, temperatures have plunged, and people are bracing for extreme wind chill. Those who will be affected by the cold should stay inside as much as possible. If you have to go out, protect yourself from the risks associated with icy conditions, including falls and car accidents. The unanimous advice from experts: Exercise extreme caution.

You’ll also want to bundle up and cover any exposed skin to avoid frostbite and hypothermia. Here's how to spot the signs of those conditions — and what to do if you think someone has developed them.

In extreme cold, exposed skin can develop frostbite in as little as five minutes, said George T. Chiampas, an emergency medicine doctor and a professor at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

The body's first reaction to extreme cold is to restrict blood and oxygen flow from its extremities, in order to preserve major organs, he said. And the first signs of frostbite including tingling or pain in the affected areas. If you think you have frostbite, you should immediately go inside and check yourself for any discoloration or other clear signs of the condition. Fingers, toes and the face are most often affected.

People with frostbite sometimes don't realize what is happening, because their fingers or other parts of their bodies go numb as it sets in. And if they are also experiencing hypothermia, which can be deadly, their judgment could be impaired.

Watch for signs of frostbite, including skin that has blistered or become discolored or that feels unusually firm or waxy. The condition can result in permanent damage and amputation and can be more dangerous the longer it goes without treatment.

If you think you have frostbite, avoid using a heating pad or hot water, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns: If the affected area is numb, you could get burned. Until you can see a doctor, immerse the area in warm water, change into dry warm clothes and use blankets and body heat, such as tucking fingers into armpits.

The C.D.C. warns against walking on frostbitten feet or toes or massaging affected areas, which can increase damage.

When the body is exposed to the cold for prolonged periods, it begins to lose heat faster than it can produce it, according to the C.D.C. Wet conditions are especially dangerous, even in relatively warmer temperatures. A low body temperature renders major organs incapable of functioning properly and can be deadly. Older adults and others with poor circulation are particularly vulnerable.

In the early stages of hypothermia, people often become disoriented or drowsy. Their judgment may be compromised. Fumbling and slurred speech are telltale signs. This makes hypothermia especially dangerous, according to the C.D.C., "because a person may not know that it's happening and won't be able to do anything about it."

The agency advises taking the person's temperature if you notice any of those symptoms. A temperature below 95 indicates an emergency, requiring immediate medical attention.

Until you can get medical assistance, get the person inside, remove wet clothing and gently warm the body, the agency says. You can give the person warm beverages, but avoid alcohol, as it causes the body to lose heat more rapidly.

In cases of severe hypothermia, the victim may be unconscious — and may seem not even to have a pulse, or to be breathing. But some hypothermia victims who appear dead can be resuscitated, the C.D.C. says. Call 911 and administer CPR if possible.

Jenny Gross

Bitter cold is settling over the Northeast this weekend, with wind chills reaching far blow zero degrees in parts of the region.

Here are steps to take to prepare for subzero temperatures, strong winds and other winter weather.

Keep flashlights, extra batteries and extra blankets on hand, as well as a can opener, extra medicine, first aid supplies, emergency heat sources and a fire extinguisher, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a government agency. Also, stock up on nonperishable foods, such as dry cereal, nuts and protein bars. The National Weather Service recommends having at least one gallon of water per person a day for three days.

If the power goes out, and you are relying on a generator, make sure to use it only outdoors, more than 20 feet away from your home. It is critical to have working carbon monoxide monitors on each floor of your home. Do not heat your home with a camp stove, oven or charcoal-burning device. Never run car engines with the garage door closed.

If your heat is working, you can retain heated air and save on electricity bills by keeping curtains closed and using adhesive barrier tape or other materials to seal drafty windows. Place rolled-up towels or rags at the base of doors leading outside, and shut the doors of unoccupied rooms to retain heat.

Protect Your Pipes, an initiative funded by water and wastewater utilities in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, recommends making sure that your thermostat is set to 55 degrees Fahrenheit or higher during cold weather. It also says to run the faucets that are farthest from your main valve, since even a trickle of water will keep pipes from freezing, and to open cupboards with pipes in order to keep the pipes warm. Ahead of the arrival of freezing weather, turn off water to outside spigots and drain water from the line, Protect Your Pipes advises.

In very cold weather, keep pets warm, dry and indoors whenever possible, and make sure they are drinking plenty of water, since dehydration poses additional risks in the winter. When you go outside, make sure to wear mittens, which are warmer than gloves, and a hat, according to the Weather Service.

A correction was made on A correction was made on