Tuesday, January 7, 2014

New York to get reprieve from ice-cold weather Wednesday with 20-degree 'warm-up'

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Commuters brave the frigid temperatures Tuesday morning when the wind chill made it feel like 10 below.

Relief is on the way from the record cold that turned New York City into an icebox Tuesday - if you can call 20-degree weather com nyc relief.

"After today we're going to be on a warming trend," said meteorologist Joe Pollina of the National Weather Service. "Tomorrow the high will be in the 20s, as opposed the teens today."

But wait, said Pollina, it gets better.

"By Thursday, it will be just above freezing in most places in the city," he said. "We continue to warm on Friday, to the lower to middle 40s. By Saturday, we could be in lower 50s across the metro area."

And this brutal Tuesday, on which cold weather records tumbled for this date like dominoes across the city, will be a memory.

But, oy, what a memory.


That was cold comfort of a sort to the millions of New Yorkers who made the morning commute when the frost was at its fiercest, battling wind chills that got as low in the city as minus 18 degrees at LaGuardia Airport.

The coldest spot in the city was Central Park, where the 4-degree temperature reported at 9:39 a.m. shattered the 118-year-old record low of 6 degrees for this date which was set back on Jan. 7, 1896.

Record lows were also notched at LaGuardia Airport (4 degrees, old record of 11 was set in 1968) and Kennedy Airport (6 degrees, old record of 8 was also set in 1968).

There was also no reprieve from the wicked weather for the million or so public school students who schlepped to classes through the record cold.

Nor was there any break for New Yorkers who have to go outside to earn a living.

"Every time I'm about to go out into the street, I know I have to zip up," said Michael Bell, 48, of the Bronx, who spent the day carrying merchandise into the Gristedes in Chelsea. "You have to keep moving. It's when you stop that the cold sinks in."


Perry Edwards, a 47-year-old UPS driver, said stepping into warm buildings has been his salvation.

"You have to take breaks, that's the secret," he said. "I try not to expose my skin to the cold for too long. I go into buildings and warm up whenever I can."

His co-worker Anabeth Batista, 45, a Bronx mother-of-three, said she relies on "my hand and foot warmers."

"You can stay out there too long or you freeze and can't move," said a shivering Batista. "It's cold out there."

The face and ears of 50-year-old bicycle deliveryman Miguel Lopez were red - and as raw as the weather.

"I can't feel them," Lopez said as he parked his ride. "It's busy for us today. Everyone wants their food delivered. No one wants to come out."


Letter-carrier Trevon Hendricks, 25, of Brooklyn, said when he saw the forecast was for single digits he broke out the long johns. And he tried to look on the bright side.

"At least it's not Monday," he said. That's when people get the most mail, after the Sunday break. I spend a good four to six consecutive hours outside."

By the time Hendricks was wrapping his route, the temperature had inched up to 10 degrees with a wind chill factor of minus 10.

Jet Blue, which had halted flights in and out of New York City, Newark and Boston as the cold set in, also got back to business and resumed flying Tuesday.

The cold snap was caused by a "polar vortex" carrying bone-chilling Arctic air that started torturing much of the country's midsection earlier this week.

"It's going to get very cold, very quickly," Mayor de Blasio warned Monday, as the big chill began descending on the city. "We will get down to the single digits. With wind chill, we will be below zero in many parts of the city."


Sanitation workers were placed on 12-hour shifts. City workers were sent out to herd the homeless into shelters. The MTA and Port Authority braced for extreme cold. And the utilities brought in extra bodies in the event of power outages.

De Blasio was not exaggerating. The record low temps were accompanied by wind gusts of 50 mph that pushed the mercury even lower.

But all in all, New York City got off lightly.

Elsewhere in America, the freight train of frigid air was blamed for at least 15 deaths.

Airlines canceled more than 3,700 flights within the U.S. by late Monday, bringing the three-day total to more than 8,700 flights scrapped, according to the tracking service FlightAware.com.

The freezing temperatures came on the heels of a wacky weather cycle in New York City that started with last Thursday's snowstorm, followed by a brief warm-up which, in turn, was followed by torrential rains and more cold. Monday's high in the city reached a balmy 54.

And when dawn broke Tuesday, it was only 4 degrees warmer in Gotham than in Fairbanks, Alaska, where the temperature was a big fat zero.

Warmer weather is also heading to cities like Chicago, Milwaukee and Indianapolis, which have been in the deep freeze for days.

Sweet relief is also foreseen for cities not used to this kind of weather such as Atlanta, Nashville and Birmingham, Ala., where the temperatures were in the single digits earlier Tuesday.

There was even frost on the white sandy beaches of Pensacola, Fla.


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