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After warm spell, temperatures in Connecticut drop significantly

A warming center in Hartford, operated by South Park Inn, prepares for extended hours during severe cold conditions.
Tyler Russell
Connecticut Public
A warming center at 110 Washington Street in Hartford, operated by South Park Inn, prepares for extended hours during severe cold conditions.

A shot of cold weather hit Connecticut Friday and continued into Saturday with wind chills falling below zero.

A wind chill warning is in effect for inland parts of the state with a wind chill advisory in effect for southern Connecticut through midday Saturday.

The National Weather Service (NWS) said wind chills in Litchfield County could drop to as low as 25 to 30 degrees below zero. Hartford, Tolland and Windham counties could see wind chills as low as 35 degrees below zero.

Cities across New England set low temperature records on Saturday. Hartford dipped down to -9, breaking the previous record of -8 in 1965. Bridgeport reached -4. Worcester, Massachusetts, recorded -13. Boston set a new low of -10 and Providence reached -9.

The cold wind chills could cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 20 to 30 minutes, according to the NWS. But the cold weather is expected to abate Sunday — with temperatures climbing back up into the 40s.

Towns prepare for cold weather

Rick Fontana, New Haven’s director of emergency operations, said his city’s four overnight warming centers are prepared – and he urged people to avoid going outside for prolonged periods during the cold snap.

“Don’t do it,” Fontana said. “Call 2-1-1. They will make a provision for you to get to a safe place … we don’t want people out in the cold.”

Fontana said it’s also important to bring pets indoors during the extreme cold.

The city of Hartford is offering daytime warming centers Thursday and Friday due to the extreme cold. The centers are located at the Albany Library, Barbour Library, Camp Field Library, Dwight Library, Park Street Library and Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Hartford.

The city's also supporting overnight warming centers starting Thursday night. Adults can visit 110 Washington St. People between 18 and 24 years old and families with children can visit Marshall House, 333 Homestead Ave.

Kelly Gonzales, director of Specialty Services at South Park Inn in Hartford, said Thursday that they are running operations at the warming center on Washington Street in Hartford. The center contains 45 cots in a gynamasium. Showers and meals are made available to people who need them.

The Salvation Army is also gearing up for the cold. Katie Perrett, emergency disaster services coordinator for southern New England with the Salvation Army, said her agency can assist with supplies where needed.

"Wherever it is in the community that has a critical need, we can respond in terms of serving food, giving out hygiene kits, hydration, more, maybe some blankets and things of that nature to kind of meet the essential and immediate needs," Perrett said.

Major Michael Laro, divisional secretary for business administration at the Salvation Army headquarters in Hartford, said the Marshall House is ready to receive families tonight.

“We have room for 20 individuals in our warming center or colder weather programs," Laro said, emphasizing that cold weather can hit low-income familes and people experiencing homelessness the hardest: "When it's just so cold. There's no escaping it."

The Salvation Army has family centers serving communities in Hartford, Waterbury and New Britain.

Gov. Ned Lamont said in a statement that. Connecticut’s severe cold weather protocol will go into effect beginning at noon on Thursday and remain in effect until noon on Sunday.

He also urged people to seek shelter and stay out of the cold.

“Spending long periods of time outdoors in these conditions is not only harmful, it can be fatal,” Lamont said. “Shelters and warming centers are available across Connecticut. Anyone in need of a safe place to stay warm is urged to call 2-1-1 to get connected to a nearby location, and transportation can be provided if needed.”

Property owners should also be aware of the possibility of freezing pipes.

Where’s the snow?

Connecticut Public meteorologist Garett Argianas said the quick dip in temperatures comes as Connecticut continues to experience a lack of snow.

“We’ve had a number of storms that have been largely rain through December into January,” Argianas said. “We’re not really running a deficit in the precipitation department, but we’re definitely running way behind on snowfall and that’s true for inland areas and also along the shoreline.”

In the Hartford area, Argianas said more than a dozen years were less snowy up through the end of January compared to this year.

But he said the lack of snowfall is particularly pronounced on the shoreline.

“Where we’ve had under an inch of snow through the end of January,” Argianas said. “That’s only happened once before in recorded weather history in the Bridgeport area.”

Argianas said the lack of snow is driven largely by bigger-picture weather patterns like La Niña, which is a condition in the Pacific Ocean that can impact worldwide weather patterns and lead to warmer, less snowy winters.

This story has been updated. Connecticut Public Radio’s John Henry Smith, Maricarmen Cajahuaringa, Tyler Russell and Eric Aasen contributed to this report.

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached at pskahill@ctpublic.org.