Cold temperature records across the Midwest and Eastern U.S. fell like dominoes Friday, with new all-time lows smashed up and down the Eastern Seaboard.
It was a day for the weather history books in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Atlanta -- and even Miami, where temperatures hit 37 degrees.
In New York, the old record for Feb. 20 was 7 degrees in Central Park. Friday’s new record was 2 degrees.
The majestic Hudson River started looking more like the Arctic Sea. Ferry operators canceled several trans-Hudson commuter trips because the ice was so bad. And the ferries that did make the trip had to travel in the lanes carved by powerful tug boats.
In the summer, folk like to say, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.” The new variation: “It’s not just the cold, it’s the wind chill too.”
In Philadelphia, it was so cold that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese kept all its parochial schools close. Many other schools either closed or delayed the start of classes by two hours. All public schools in the entire state of Delaware also remained closed.
Philly hit 2 degrees at 7 a.m., 1 degree more than the record set for the day in 1979 and the coldest its been since Jan. 20, 1994, the National Weather Service said. But new records were hit in nearby Trenton, N.J. and Wilmington, Del.
There were no new records in Boston except for the mounting snowfall, now at 8 feet and about to climb with a wintry mix of snow and rain set for Saturday night. The snow has made a mess of public transit and is collapsing roofs throughout New England.
After Friday’s deep freeze, temperatures will hit a downright balmy 34 degrees in New York and briefly hit the 40s on Sunday.
But the Polar Vortex will plunge temps back down Monday and Tuesday and set the stage for another winter storm in Philly, Boston and NYC by the middle of the week.
The vortex is essentially the cold from the polar air masses dipping deep into areas of America it usually stays out of; and it happens when the west-east jet stream dips much further south than normal weather patterns.
Some cities even hit all-time historic lows: Lynchburg, Va. sunk to -11, and that’s without the wind chills. The all-time cold for the city was -10 until Friday.
The Washington Post reports:
-- Flint, Mich. tied its all-time record low for any month when the temperature dropped to a brutal minus 25 degrees on Friday morning. The last time it was so cold in Flint was on Jan. 18, 1976.
--Cleveland broke its all-time record low for the month of February when the thermometer bottomed out at 17 degrees below zero on Friday morning. The new record surpassed the previous by one degree, set more than a century ago on Feb. 10, 1899.
Back in NYC, the huddled masses braved the painful cold -- doctors say frostbite can set in in 15 minutes -- with their faces under hoods, hats and scarves.
At his small grocery store in Brooklyn's Fort Greene neighborhood, Mohammad Islam, 30, anticipated selling a lot of hot coffee.
"I've never seen cold like this," said Islam, who immigrated to New York from Bangladesh in 2003. "So much cold!"
At that very moment, Ludlow Chamberlain, a 76-year-old custodian walked in with two woolly hats, two winter coats and many more layers besides.
"I love every kind of weather here, all I got to do is dress warm," said Chamberlain, who walked in singing.
Friends in his native Jamaica often ask him at this time of year when he plans to move back to the Caribbean. Never, he tells them.
"You heard me coming in singing happy, right?" he said. "That means everything's all right with me. We don't get it 365 days a year so we shouldn't complain."