Shelters Fill Up As State Faces Record Cold Saturday

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Video report by Jeevan Vittal, FOX CT

Text by Kelly Glista and Christine Dempsey, The Hartford Courant

The coastal storm that hit the state Thursday and Friday may have not have broken snowfall records, but the cold that followed just might: The state will wake up to temperatures at or well below zero Saturday.

Temperatures plunged Friday night and the low temperatures Saturday morning will be between 0 and minus-15, FOX CT meteorologist Rachel Frank said.

Daily record-low temperatures for Saturday will be challenged or broken, Frank said. The record for Windsor Locks, at Bradley International Airport, is minus-7, set in 1981.

That record cold is precisely what Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is worried about, he said at a Friday afternoon briefing.

“Snowfall was about what we expected,” Malloy said of the storm Thursday into Friday morning that dumped 4 to 9 inches of snow across the state. “The primary concern now is the extreme cold. By this evening, we will see temperatures of minus-15 in some parts of the state.”

Shelters around the state are operating at 120 percent of capacity, he said.

Malloy urged people to limit their travel in the cold. Police assisted 25 injured motorists Friday, he said, not including a fatal crash in Torrington in which a 22-year-old driver slid on a snow-covered Route 8 and struck a parked Department of Transportation truck.

“If you have neighbors who might need assistance, please go over, knock on their door,” the governor said.

And in a lighthearted piece of advice that alluded to a scene in “A Christmas Story,” he said, “Don’t put your tongue on a flagpole today.”

After the cold start Saturday, temperatures will climb into the 20s with mostly sunny skies, Frank said. Rain showers are possible for Sunday into Monday before temperatures plummet again Monday afternoon, with a flash freeze possible that night, she said.

Snowfall totals, which were hard to measure Friday morning as winds blew the snow around, ranged from 3.8 inches in Colchester to 9.5 in Darien and Milford, according to the National Weather Service. Most of the state got between 5 and 7 inches, Frank said.

The storm slowed the Friday morning commute, with a number of spinouts, as snow still covered most roads and low temperatures prevented melting even after the sun came out.

“It’s very slippery out there,” Fox CT meteorologist Joe Furey said Friday morning.

In all, the state police responded to more than 200 accidents and more than 2,300 calls for service, state police spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance said shortly after 9:30 a.m. Friday.

“So it’s been a very hectic storm,” he said.

He advised people not to venture outside in the bitter cold, but said that if people must travel, they should make sure cellphones are fully charged and put blankets in their cars.

At 5 a.m. Friday, the temperature ranged from 2 degrees in Putnam to 12 degrees in Bridgeport, Furey said. The wind chills made it feel much colder, he said — like minus 13 degrees in Norwich and minus 8 in Hartford. By 7 a.m., the temperature in Hartford had risen to 11 degrees.

Massachusetts took the brunt of the storm, Furey said Friday.

“We were pretty much brushed by this storm system,” he said. “Some places north of Boston picked up a foot yesterday.”

Boxford, about 25 miles north of Boston, topped the Massachusetts snowfall totals with 23.8 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

The cold was a concern in Willimantic on Friday as crews worked to repair a water main.

“Cold temperatures are a great concern for workers on scene as wind chills may reach well below zero today,” said Paul Devany, assistant superintendent of the Willimantic Water Department. He said 22 houses were without running water; which was expected to be restored Friday evening.

The water main break happened about 6 a.m. on Holbrook Avenue, where “a large volume of water” flowed down the street to the intersection of West Main Street near the Department of Motor Vehicles office, Devany said.

Many schools opted to close early Thursday, and most schools around the state remained closed on Friday.

About 40 percent of planned departures from Bradley International Airport were canceled on Friday morning, an airport spokesman said.

AAA received 1,058 calls for emergency road service in Greater Hartford and eastern Connecticut, which includes Hartford, Middlesex, Tolland, Windham and New London counties on Friday, spokesman Aaron Kupec said.

On Thursday, AAA received 1,122 calls. Common calls for service included requests for jump starts, lockouts, help getting vehicles off the road and flat tires, as well as a few motorists in need of fuel, Kupec said.

City of Hartford offices were closed Friday, with only essential employees working, a city spokeswoman said.

On Thursday afternoon, warming centers were opened to residents all over the state throughout the weekend.

Anyone who goes out in the cold should dress appropriately, said Cindy Lord, associate professor and director of the physician assistant program at Quinnipiac University.

To avoid hypothermia, she said, cover up, avoid overexertion, dress in loose-fitting layers and stay dry.

Babies under 1 should not sleep in cold bedrooms because they lose body heat more easily, the town of Manchester warned its residents in an emailed alert.

Those who are older should avoid drinking alcoholic or caffeinated beverages, the alert says. Alcohol and caffeine both make your body lose heat more quickly.

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