The big chill: Winter gets down to business

Posted January 6, 2015
Updated January 7, 2015

While the snow stays to the north, winter will make itself felt over the next two days in the Triangle.

The National Weather Service posted a Wind Chill Advisory for much of central North Carolina through midnight Thursday, estimating that winds will gust to 30 mph throughout the day Wednesday, and combined with air temperatures in the single digits, will produce wind chills below at or below zero tonight through early Thursday morning.

Temperatures dipped below freezing Wednesday morning but were expected to warm up to about 39 degrees by noon under mostly cloudy skies.

Then the big plunge hits. By dusk, temperatures will be in the 20, and they'll continue to fall through the night.

Thursday will be clear but cold, and the winds will moderate a bit. 

By Friday afternoon, it will be a bit more mild with temperatures in the 40s, but the Triangle won't warm all the way out of that trough through the weekend.

Local shelters offer warm, indoor option

There are several local options for those who need a warms place to wait out the cold blast. 

Teams from the Durham Rescue Mission will be on the streets Wednesday, visiting know homeless encampments to encourage people to come to the shelter for a warm bed and a hot meal.

The Raleigh Rescue Mission on East Hargett Street is flying a white flag to signal that they are making room for more people given the freezing conditions.

And the Orange County Public Library in Hillsborough is also inviting people to come in to get warm.

Here's a look at how the winter weather is playing out in the rest of the country. (It turns out, even Hawaii isn't immune.)

Shoveling and shivering in Midwest, Plains

Just this past weekend, Ohio residents walked around in light jackets, enjoying temperatures in the 50s. Now, they and their neighbors across the Great Lakes are bundling up as frigid air follows several inches of snow.

Actual air temperatures in Ohio are expected to follow the example of Monday's single-digit wind chills – a calculation of how cold the air feels to exposed skin when wind is factored in – later in the week.

Illinois has it even worse. Wind chills as low as minus 30 are forecast to move in behind the storm, which dropped as much as 6 inches of snow on parts of the state. It was still snowing in parts of northeast Ohio along Lake Erie, where as much as 20 inches could drop by Wednesday night.

The snow snarled travel throughout the region Monday and Tuesday. More than 130 flights in and out of Chicago's two airports were canceled.

Many school districts delayed or canceled classes Tuesday, including in Columbus, Ohio's largest city. Brutal cold and dangerous wind chills prompted dozens of districts in Illinois, including Chicago Public Schools, to pre-emptively cancel Wednesday classes. School delays and traffic accidents plagued part of Indiana on Tuesday. Traffic crashes in Michigan killed at least five people.

The cold put wheat crops in danger in parts of Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Kansas. 

Al-Joe's Pet and Garden Center in Hamilton, Ohio, has been selling more bedding for outside dogs and cats and receiving more calls for snow removal, owner Gary Grollmus said.

"They want to get it off before it turns into a solid sheet of ice," he said.

Chaos in the capital

More snow and colder-than-expected weather surprised officials and residents in and around the nation's capital, leading to frustrating commutes, air cancellations and apologies from school districts that had decided – unwisely – to remain open.

A couple of inches of snow that hit just before Tuesday's rush hour created difficulties for school buses. Twitter users roundly panned decisions by Fairfax and Loudoun, Virginia, county schools to stay open.

The hashtags #closeFCPS and #Wayde – a reference to school system spokesman Wayde Byard, who delivers the news when closures are implemented – made the worldwide list of trending topics.

Later Tuesday, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William and Arlington county schools apologized to parents for the difficulties. They said they decided to open using the best information available to them in the early morning.

Maryland reported dozens of accidents, including one that left a 17-year-old girl in critical condition. More than two dozen flights were canceled at Reagan National Airport.

Wednesday was expected to bring 4 inches of snow to parts of the area. Federal officers remained open, but workers had the option to telecommute or take unscheduled leave.

Northeast braces for the wave

New York City, where people can go years without meeting their neighbors, the mayor is reminding residents to keep an eye out for those who might be at risk. That includes neighbors, relatives and the homeless.

Ahead of temperatures expected to drop to 9 degrees Wednesday night, with a wind chill as low as minus 15, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio made that request and also asked service providers to check on their clients. Next door in New Jersey, wind chills as low as 20 below are expected into Thursday morning.

Snow fell Tuesday on dignitaries attending the Manhattan funeral of former Gov. Mario Cuomo.

Nearby in Connecticut, officials urged people needing shelter to call a 211 hotline. And to the north in New Hampshire, with wind chills forecast to dip below minus 30 on Wednesday night into Thursday, emergency authorities told people they should stay indoors as much as possible and dress in layers if they had to go outside.

Authorities also warned about the perennial cautions needed for alternate heating sources, such as fireplaces, wood stoves and space heaters, making sure to check any cords for fraying and not place heaters too close to flammable materials. Pipes should be wrapped in insulation or old newspapers to avert freezing and bursting.

Rather be in Hawaii?

The Aloha State is recovering from some record-setting, well, cold.

A low temperature of 57 degrees was reported Monday morning at Honolulu Airport, breaking the previous record of 58 for that date, set in 1893. The low temperature of 59 in Hilo on Sunday broke the record of 60 set for that date in 1999. And a low of 57 degrees at the Lihue Airport on Kauai on Monday tied a record set in 1993.

A new cold front moved across the islands Tuesday, keeping temperatures in the low- to mid-60s in most areas.


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  • johnnymanziel Jan 7, 2015

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    Close, I grew up in Pennsylvania.

  • Joe Crain Jan 7, 2015
    user avatar

    Over the past 11 years of living in Raleigh and reading wral comments, I have come to one conclusion: There seem to be a lot of people in here who spent their entire childhood winters living in Barrow, Alaska and their summers living somewhere in Death Valley. Every time a news report comes out about the weather dropping (or rising to an extreme in the summer), these people complain that the news is making a big deal about it. Here is the issue for those of us not raised in those locations: health concerns are involved when the weather drops (especially below zero). It's the media's job to report this. If they did not, and someone was seriously injured, or died, these same people would ream the media for not informing the public. Additionally, we're not equipped to handle extreme cold (like you must have been in Barrow). Thank you, WRAL, for doing your job and reporting the extreme cold weather.
    PS: Being cold in January does NOT prove that climate change does not exist.

  • Walkin Man Jan 7, 2015

    Unbelievable!! you would think we never had colder weather down here.

  • johnnymanziel Jan 7, 2015

    I expect numerous school closings to pop up by late this afternoon.

  • arfamr1010 Jan 7, 2015

    better get your bread and milk