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The cold weather 'bomb' headed for the East Coast may be the 'worst you've ever seen,' according to a meteorologist

  • The Northeast will experience some of the coldest temperatures in decades on Friday and Saturday as a ‘cold weather bomb’ bears down on the region.
  • Temperatures are expected to plummet to below zero Fahrenheit in New York City on Friday night.
  • Snowfall may actually insulate infrastructure from freezing too much.

A ‘cold weather bomb‘ is bearing down on the East Coast. At least one meteorologist is warning that the frigid temperatures following the storm could be “literally the worst you’ve ever seen,” with low temperatures not seen in decades.

Gary Szatkowski, a meteorologist who spent 35 years with the National Weather Service, tweeted on Wednesday morning that the snowfall associated with the storm isn’t the biggest issue.

“There’s a strong tendency to focus on the snow amounts, but please keep in mind the bitter cold and very low wind chills which follow this storm,” Szatkowski said. “It may literally be the worst you’ve ever seen.”

While ‘bomb cyclones’ – the type of storm that’s heading toward the Northeast – aren’t particularly uncommon, the temperatures this storm will bring to the region will be far colder than a similar storm that hit the region in November 2014. That storm, popularly known as the ‘polar vortex,’ dumped 65 inches of snow on Buffalo, New York, and brought temperatures across New York and the Northeast into the single digits for a few days.

The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and parts of Massachusetts as of Wednesday.

The upcoming frigid weekend won’t be coldest the region has ever experienced, however. On February 9, 1943, the mercury hit 15 degrees below zero – the coldest day, before the windchill, in New York City’s history, according to AccuWeather. Less than a week later, the city experienced the eighth coldest day in its history, with a low of 8 degrees below zero.

The coming storm, which is creeping up the East Coast, is set to unload up to a foot of snow across parts of Southern New England and Long Island on Thursday, according to the NWS. New York City, Philadelphia, and much of New Jersey are only expected to receive a few inches, but after the snow falls, the storm will pull a frigid Arctic air mass over region. That will likely plunge temperatures to the single digits on Friday and Saturday nights.

By Thursday night, temperatures are expected to plummet to an average low of 10 degrees across the region, with gusts of winds up to 33 miles per hour. That could make it feel as cold as -14 Fahrenheit with the windchill. The NWS predicts the snow will stop falling on Thursday evening. By Friday night, the low forecast for New York is 3 degrees with wind gusts of up to 34 miles per hour, according to the NWS.

That’s true for much of the Northeast – in Boston, which is expected to get up to a foot of snow on Thursday, temperatures will plummet to a low of -3 degrees Fahrenheit on Friday evening, with wind chills of up to -35 degrees likely on Friday and Saturday nights.

The National Weather Service warns that heavy snow and frigid temperatures will make travel difficult, and added that there are likely to be power outages throughout Boston, Eastern Massachusetts, and Rhode Island on Thursday.

Szatkowski explained on Twitter that a few inches of snow can serve as infrastructure insulation, protecting water pipes and subway tracks from freezing in the extreme cold.

Saturday ‘s temperatures will creep back up into the teens in New York and Philadelphia, only to plunge to 5 degrees after the sun sets, though the NWS expects winds to subside. Single digits will continue that day in Boston. On Sunday, temperatures will move back up to a more normal (but still cold) high of 22 degrees around New York and Philadelphia, with a high in Boston around 16.

If you live on the East Coast, temperatures could get cold enough to worry about frostbite. The Mayo Clinic warns that it’s too dangerous to do any sort of outdoor workout once the thermometer dips below zero. When the windchill drops below negative 18, frostbite can hit fingers and toes in half an hour.

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