Not since 2014’s so-called polar vortex has the state seen such sustained frigid temperatures. According to meteorologists, the culprit this time is a blast of arctic air hitting the East Coast.
“This appears to be the coldest air mass for the last four or five years,” said National Weather spokesman Bill Simpson. “It’ll probably be an extended period of cold air, probably breaking by next week. So we’re looking at well, well below our normal temperatures.”
Over the next few days thermometers in southern New England are set to hover in the teens at their warmest, and dip into the single digits at times.
“Normal highs are 35, and if you have highs only in the teens, that’s a good 20 degrees less than normal,” said Simpson.
But Simpson says with wind chill, temperatures could feel about 10 degrees below freezing on the coldest days.
“The ambient temperature’s one thing,” said Simpson. “But when you have wind, it takes any kind of surface heat off the skin pretty fast, and the colder it is the more winds, the more danger it is for frostbite in a pretty short period of time.”
In extreme cold, frostbite can set in within a matter of minutes. Rhode Island’s Emergency Management Agency has released a list warming centers, in anticipation of the frigid weather.