PITTSBURGH (AP) – A blast of frigid polar air brought record low temperatures into Pennsylvania, closing schools, courts and government buildings, and leaving some newspapers scrambling to report all that news to their readers.
In northwestern Pennsylvania, up to 15 inches of snow added a bitter insult to injury.
The temperature in Pittsburgh dipped to minus-7 degrees late Monday night – and it continued falling overnight to minus-9 on Tuesday, a record. The former record low for Jan. 7 was minus-5, set in 1884. (The all-time low of 22 degrees below zero was set on Jan. 19, 1994.)
The low temperatures were aggravated by wind gusts that sent chill indexes to minus-30 in Pittsburgh, and as low as minus-40 in some higher elevations east and south of the city, where low temperatures fell to minus-14 in some spots.
Most schools, courts and many government offices closed in western Pennsylvania, where temperatures in most areas weren’t forecast to rise above zero until late afternoon. A seasonably normal high in the mid-20s was forecast for most areas on Wednesday, with temperatures expected to climb into the low 40s by the weekend.
In Philadelphia and the rest of southeastern Pennsylvania, the cold was less severe, with low temperatures hovering around zero and wind chills in the minus-teens.
Allegheny County opened five warming centers in and around the city, and several other suburbs were making facilities available, especially for the elderly or those with substandard utilities.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, whose Monday inauguration was moved indoors as the deep-freeze set in, ordered city police to bring homeless people from makeshift encampments to various shelters, as winds created chills as low as minus-30 degrees overnight.
The cold weather caused scattered power outages, as utilities scrambled to restore service even while urging folks to conserve electricity to keep from overloading the grid during the cold snap. By daybreak Tuesday, West Penn Power reported more than 5,000 customers without electricity in Armstrong, Fayette and Washington counties.
Officials with PJM Interconnection, which manages the wholesale power supply for all or part of 13 states, say there was record winter demand Tuesday morning, and another record may be set Tuesday afternoon. PJM, based in Valley Forge, is asking customers to conserve energy if possible between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tuesday and 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. Wednesday.
Parts of Erie and Crawford counties, the two northwesternmost in the state, were hit with heavy snows, though substantially less than the three feet expected to fall in western New York, where blizzard conditions prevailed.
The two major newspapers in that area, the Erie Times-News and the Meadville Tribune, both alerted readers that papers might not be delivered in some areas Tuesday because of the weather. As a result, both newspapers made their online versions free for the day.
There were no immediate reports of deaths from the extreme cold.