Cities along the U.S. East Coast shoveled streets clear of record snowfalls as temperatures plummeted following the season’s worst storm.
The low in New York’s Central Park, where 11 inches (28 centimeters) of snow fell, a record for the date, is expected to reach 7 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 14 Celsius) tonight, according to the National Weather Service. As of 7 a.m., the coldest place in the contiguous U.S. was Watertown, New York, at minus 36, said the U.S. Weather Prediction Center.
“A lot of places north of New York and north and west of Boston will be at zero or below zero by tonight,” said Rob Carolan, owner of Hometown Forecast Services Inc. in Nashua, New Hampshire. “It may moderate a bit on Saturday and the next big cold blast will come through on Sunday.”
Natural gas for February delivery rose as much as 4.4 percent to $4.624 per million British thermal units as of 9:04 a.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the highest intraday level since June 14, 2011.
The light, fluffy snow also set daily records in Washington, where 3.8 inches fell yesterday, and Philadelphia, which had 13.5 inches, according to the weather service. As of 8 a.m. New York time, the storm had contributed to the cancellation of 4,446 flights in the past two days, said FlightAware, a Houston-based airline tracking service.
Amtrak will operate a reduced schedule between Boston and Washington and from New York to Albany and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the federally owned railroad said in a statement. The Long Island Rail Road is operating on a weekend schedule and buses have replaced some trains, according to a statement.
Schools in Boston and Philadelphia closed for the day. New York City schools were open. Emergencies were declared in New York, New Jersey and Delaware.
As the storm left the U.S., blizzard warnings were posted for parts of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, according to Environment Canada.
The snow moved into the East from the Midwest, picking up power as it mixed with Atlantic Ocean moisture. The cold was forced south as a warm, high-pressure ridge developed over the Gulf of Alaska, according to Matt Rogers, president of the Commodity Weather Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland.
The cold, which will push readings in Philadelphia to 4 and in Boston to 5 tonight, covered much of the East and sent readings down as far south as Texas, the U.S. weather service said. Chicago’s reading may drop close to 1 today and Houston is forecast to reach 30 by tomorrow night.
Average temperatures in the eastern U.S. are expected to be at least 8 degrees below normal from today until Jan. 31, Rogers said.
From southern Ontario through the Ohio Valley and into the mid-Atlantic region, readings may be 15 degrees below normal through Jan. 26, he said in a forecast. The extreme cold will then remain situated over the Great Lakes and drift into western Quebec.
“Impressive cold coverage this week and next over the Midwest, East and South continues to be the main story,” Rogers said. The drop in temperatures may make this month the coldest January of the century so far, he said.
Rogers said the U.S. should finish the month with a natural-gas-weighted heating-degree days value of 1,050.8, beating the previous record of 1,038.1 set in January 2004. The value is calculated by subtracting the daily average temperature from a base of 65 degrees. The higher the number, the more energy required to heat homes and businesses.
Almost half of U.S. households use gas for heating. Spot wholesale electricity jumped to two-week highs across eastern U.S. grids yesterday as the bitter cold helped push natural gas on spot markets to record levels. Propane prices in the Midwest also surged to a record high yesterday.