As hundreds of thousands remain without power in Texas on Thursday amid frigid temperatures and icy roads, the Northeast is bracing for a blast of bitterly cold air, which forecasters say could be the coldest felt in decades.
Texas is reeling from a dangerous hailstorm that dumped heavy snowfall and freezing rain, causing life-threatening road conditions in surrounding states including Oklahoma, Arkansas and the Memphis area of Tennessee.
On Wednesday, Texas reported that a third person was killed during the storm after he lost control of his truck on an icy road north of Eldorado. One person was killed in Austin in a 10-car pileup, and another was killed after the cars rolled in the Dallas-area city of Arlington, officials said.
And while Thursday is expected to bring some relief from the deadly storm as temperatures slowly rise, accumulating layers of ice and snow snapped tree limbs and branches and caused power outages. to nearly 400,000 homes and businesses in Texas as of Thursday morning, according to PowerOutage.us. This means thousands of people are likely to have no heating or hot water when ice covers the ground.
Overnight into early Thursday, another quarter inch of ice could possibly freeze already slick roads, particularly in central and northern Texas, southern Oklahoma and Arkansas.
“This will bring the total accretion of ice storms to more than 0.5” for many locations which will increase the risk of severe tree damage and power outages, in addition to dangerous icy roads. “Sleet may also mix at times with freezing rain that will increase the chance of icy roads,” the National Weather Service said.
As Texas and the Mid-South await warmer temperatures, a separate winter storm in the Northeast has forecasters raising the alarm about wind chills well below zero degrees Fahrenheit on Friday and Saturday.
“This is a seasonal, generational Arctic epidemic,” said the National Weather Service in Caribou, Maine. “March air descending over the area Friday into Friday night is the coldest air in the Northern Hemisphere right now.”
By late Thursday night, the Northeast may begin to experience sub-zero temperatures, prompting authorities in several states to announce their preparations.
In Connecticut, the governor activated the state’s severe cold protocol starting at noon Thursday through the end of the week.
“With the kind of cold weather we’re experiencing, frostbite can develop on exposed skin in less than 30 minutes. Spending any length of time outside in these conditions is not only dangerous, it can be fatal,” Governor Ned Lamont said.
The governor added that shelters and warming centers are available across Connecticut, and transportation can be provided when needed.
Similarly, warming centers must be available in Maine, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Vermont, officials said.
In Boston, the mayor declared a cold emergency in the city for Friday through Sunday before the severe cold weather.
“I urge all Boston residents to take precautions, stay warm and safe, and check on your neighbors during this cold emergency,” said Mayor Michelle Wu.
More than 15 million people are expected to be under a wind chill watch or warning in the Northeast from either Thursday night or Friday morning through at least Saturday afternoon.
The National Weather Service issues a wind chill warning when temperatures are expected to drop to -25 degrees Fahrenheit or colder.
The upcoming wind chill warning would apply to all of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, northern Connecticut, much of eastern and central New York and northeastern Pennsylvania.
The northern portion of New England will see temperatures drop to 15 to 25 degrees below zero by the end of the week. In addition, winds of 25 to 40 mph will accompany the frigid temperatures, making the air in areas as far south as New York City feel like -10 degrees Fahrenheit.
“Avoid any outdoor activity on Friday and Saturday! The cold temperatures associated with the wind factor can lead to potentially life-threatening conditions outside,” New Hampshire Homeland Security and Emergency Management said in a Facebook post Wednesday afternoon.
Meanwhile, the party northern New York and northern New England will feel like -35 to -50 degrees Fahrenheit with some wind chills as cold as 65 degrees below zero. These extreme conditions can cause frostbite within five minutes.
The Weather Prediction Center said, “Wind highs in the minus 50s for the northern part of this region (New England) could be the coldest they’ve felt in decades.”
The cold blast is expected to be brief, with temperatures rising across most of the region by Sunday afternoon.