- Associated Press - Monday, January 24, 2011

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Frozen cars sputtered, schools canceled classes, and cold-weather enthusiasts opted to stay inside Monday as a bitter blast of below-zero temperatures with promises of minus-50-degree wind chills gripped the Northeast.

The gasp-inducing cold tested the mettle even of New Englanders, who pride themselves on winter hardiness.

“Snot-freezing cold,” was how Kelly Walsh, 28, described it, walking home from an auto parts store in Vermont’s capital after buying a new battery for her car, which wouldn’t start Monday morning. It was minus 21 there at 7 a.m.

“I usually really like it,” she said. “Today is a bit of nuisance.”

Schools in western and northeastern Pennsylvania, across upstate New York, and in parts of Vermont and New Hampshire closed their doors or delayed openings to protect students from temperatures that dropped to minus 27 or lower.

“It takes your breath away if you’re not ready for it,” said Dan Giroux, shop tech at Northern Outfitters snowmobile rentals in Greenville, Maine, where the fleet mostly was idle because it was too cold for most folks.

In New York, the city doubled the number of outreach vans it sends out looking for homeless people in such cold, checking on street people every two hours.

“Our priority is to make sure they’re safe and warm,” said Seth Diamond, commissioner of the city’s Department of Homeless Services.

In Providence, R.I., the temperature dipped to minus 1 early Monday, the first below-zero reading there in six years, the National Weather Service said.

Even hat-shy teenagers were taking precautions.

“It’s hard to get teenagers to bundle up, but even they’re putting on their hats this morning,” said Tim Scott, director of development at Fryeburg Academy in Fryeburg, Maine, where the temperature hit minus 28.

Skiers said “no thanks” at some resorts. At Maine’s Sugarloaf, where a ski lift recently failed in windy weather and sent some riders to the hospital, the combination of cold and wind caused operators to shut down lifts to the summit. Four lower lifts were still running, however.

“We have a few people skiing — not many,” resort spokesman Ethan Austin said. “There’s a few hardy folks who want to get their turns in, no matter what.”

Others took it in stride.

“We’re not disturbed by the cold weather,” said Maude Gardner of Allagash, Maine, shrugging off a minus-24 reading Monday. After all, it was nothing compared to a minus-46 reading in January 2009.

Story Continues →