A "super-post" to answer all your questions on the cold! I really appreciate that you ask me, because they are questions that show you know I'll always give it to you straight: is wind chill for real? Is this really dangerous or life threatening? How bad is it really going to be? Here are the answers:
* In cold events like these, my approach is equal real-world to numbers-based. By the numbers, it's impressive, for sure. As for the real-world impact, that starts today: check car battery (service station can if you don't know how), tire pressure, home heating fuel level and...alternative heat is geared toward potential loss of primary heat. If your boiler cuts out, for instance, you want sufficient pellets or wood for the woodstove if you have one. A few thousand in New England will lose power just b/c of cold, then add 45mph gusts on top of that.
* We hear the term life-threatening and dangerous with cold like what's coming Fri/Sat, but is it really? Certainly not for most of us. The equation changes in these circumstances, among others: those without homes, who lose heat, who aren't properly dressed and pets/livestock. Keep in mind, loss of heat can come as a result of lost power, which is part of why we always encourage checking in on others at some point, particularly those who may be physically frail.
* What can we do for a leg up in the cold Friday and Saturday? For one, hydrate! As in hot weather, hydration helps the body regulate temperature in cold. Dressing in layers instead of one big coat, being ready in case of flat tire/breakdown. As for the dripping faucets...dripping faucets is probably one of the lesser understood points. If you have working heat in a well-insulated home, you don't need to do this. If your home is poorly insulated or you lose heat, many pipes run along outside walls of home, so become vulnerable...I've been getting questions whether we should run outside faucets - no! You'll get a big ice waterfall. Instead, you want to drain the water from those outside faucets after killing the supply to them. You could also try the insulated faucet covers but I don't personally.
* One repeated question that always comes up around these events: is wind chill for real? Absolutely, but here's how it works: all things have a "laminar layer" of thin air around an object's surface. For our skin, that layer contains our body heat. When the wind blows...the laminar layer is broken up/swept away, taking heat from the body quickly. This only applies to *exposed* skin! If you cover up, the wind chill has no impact. Of course, a part of our cheek or ear showing counts as exposed. This is why frostbite can happen quicker in wind.
* Wind gusts tomorrow will create a punishing wind chill that becomes dangerous later Friday into Saturday. There's another concern here too: these gusts Friday are sufficient for isolated power outages on top of the ~3,000 per day in New England already estimated from the cold.
* Friday wind chill forecast - but rather than just show the numbers, I always like to show the impact: orange is frostbite to exposed skin within 30 minutes of uninterrupted exposure, red is 15 minutes. Note the worst of Friday is absolutely Friday night. The fast-frostbite potential continues Saturday in the morning, but notice by lunchtime Saturday: it's terribly cold and will sting, but frostbite in 30 minutes of exposure won't be likely any longer in the Southern half of New England. Sunday brings a dramatic improvement, FWIW.
* What's incredible in the 10-day forecast is the rapid improvement from bone-chilling cold, to a milder-than-normal pattern as if this arctic shot never happened. Back to 40° for some Sunday, then nearly 50° by midweek!
A weak disturbance and its associated cold front crossed New England Tuesday morning with light snow and rain – just enough to create a few slick spots on untreated surfaces. The light rain and snow continues departing to the southeast where the cold front will stall and serve as the pathway for another storm Wednesday. Before that storm develops, though, New England finds breaks of sun between the clouds Tuesday afternoon with temperatures near normal for this time of the year in the 30s. The new, colder air is also drier by nature and will tend to clear the sky gradually into Tuesday evening and night for many with temperatures dropping below zero in Northern ME Tuesday night, into the single digits for much of Northern New England and teens to around 20° south. The next storm, organizing over the ocean water south of New England, will grow large enough in the predawn Wednesday to clip far Southern CT, RI and far Southeast MA with a round of light snow and snow showers, dropping a fresh coating of snow that may make roads slick in spots by Wednesday morning’s commute. Like Tuesday, any snow showers will depart for emerging afternoon sun with chilly high temperatures either side of 30°. Thursday brings fair and breezy weather as a push of milder air moves north into New England ahead of a strong approaching cold front that will open the door to a brief but intense shot of Canadian cold Friday and Saturday. As of Tuesday morning, the air set to move into New England is on the map in Central and Northern Canada, positioned over the west side of Hudson Bay where temperatures are some 30 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit below zero! Friday’s cold front initiates a northwest wind that will carry a chunk of this air – albeit moderated somewhat when it arrives – to New England. With the cold front crossing New England from northwest to southeast during the day Friday, snow showers and heavier squalls are expected in Northern New England, aided in development by the mountainous terrain, and at least a few snow showers can’t be ruled out farther south. Temperatures Friday will likely stall in the 20s by day as the northwest wind increases, then plummet at night with the passage of a second cold front that may once again deliver some scattered northern snow showers but, moreover, will be responsible for a final installment of cold air that sends Friday overnight low temperatures below zero for most of New England. If Boston dips below zero as we’re expecting, the City will reach that distinction for the first time since January of 2018. The combination of cold and wind will mean a dangerous and life-threatening wind chill for much of New England overnight Friday night into Saturday morning, and as the temperature rises to the teens south and around zero north on Saturday with a very slowly easing wind, the wind chill may not be life-threatening for most by day, but it certainly will be stinging. Now is a great time to check fuel supplies for heating, car tire pressure and battery strength in advance of the arriving cold. The cold will be exceptionally quick to retreat Sunday and clouds will fill the sky as the clash of cold and incoming less cold air takes place in the sky above, eventually leading to a chance of some snow showers overnight Sunday night before a return to high temperatures in the 30s and 40s next week, in our exclusive First Alert 10-day forecast.
Although a relatively benign week of weather is ahead for New England, we won’t escape the influence of some subtle features along the way, and the colder air slated for Friday into Saturday is quite conspicuous in our 10-day forecast! For now, a light wind and variable clouds are the New England weather story Monday as energetic disturbances pass through the sky aloft, but the air remains dry enough to preclude any precipitation until late Monday evening into Tuesday morning. A light wind and temperatures well into the 40s puts most New England communities about ten degrees warmer than normal Monday afternoon with moderate air quality as some pollution hangs in the air, owing to the light wind. We are hitting a couple of noteworthy milestones on Monday: the immune system gets a bit of a break with our Wellness Weathercast showing a moderate cold and flu index for the first time in months, after being high, very high or severe since the fall; plus, we hit a milestone for sunrises, with Boston seeing our first pre-7am sunrise Monday since December 7, and just under 10 hours of total daylight. A cold front crossing New England overnight Monday night will deliver mixed showers of rain and snow from northwest to southeast Monday afternoon through night, respectively, ending as Tuesday morning snow showers in Southeast New England and dropping a coating to 1” in Northern New England, with a spotty coating in Southern New England and little meaningful impact to most major roadways. The early departure of any lingering snow showers Tuesday gives way to emerging sun, but a colder air with high temperatures closer to where they should be in January, running in the middle 30s. A storm nearby Wednesday has been watched by our First Alert Team ever since the chance first appeared on the 10-day forecast, but it looks like that storm stays flat, quick and south of New England at midweek, meaning we stay dry and bright. Two cold fronts are forecast to cross New England at the end of this week – one during the day Friday and the other overnight Friday night. These cold fronts may deliver some snow showers and heavier squalls to Northern New England Friday, but, moreover, open the door to the true winter cold that begins the week parked across Canada and the Northern Plains to Upper Midwest of the U.S. This new air might not be incredibly noteworthy in a normal winter, but this year, highs in the single digits north and teens south, lows either side of zero and a subzero wind chill most of the day Saturday is a bigger deal than it might normally be, and will have an impact on the body, not hardened to winter cold – as a result, our team has posted a First Alert for Saturday. The cold will recede very quickly heading into the start of next week, and that transition may be marked with some snow Sunday night before returning to around 40 degrees next week, at the end of our exclusive First Alert 10-day forecast.