An Atlanta hospital calls it ‘the most challenging winter.’
The new round of shivering prolonged what has already been a difficult period in emergency rooms across a broad swath of the United States. In the Atlanta area, where temperatures were hovering around freezing on Wednesday but were expected to plunge into the teens after nightfall, doctors said they had been seeing an unusual number of patients with weather-related emergencies.
“This is the most challenging winter, in terms of exposure, that I’ve ever seen,” said Dr. Brooks Moore, the assistant medical director of the emergency department at Grady Memorial Hospital, Atlanta’s public hospital.
Dr. Moore said that about 20 people were arriving at the emergency room each day with minor complaints related to the weather and that about the same number were appearing with conditions like asthma or emphysema that were exacerbated by the cold.
He added that doctors were seeing about one or two patients a day whose core body temperatures had fallen into the low 80s — normal is about 98.6 degrees — and required “aggressive rewarming” techniques.
What exactly is a ‘bomb cyclone’?
When discussing the storm, some weather forecasters have referred to a “bomb cyclone.” Calling it a bomb sounds dire, but such storms are not exceedingly rare — there was one in New England recently.
What makes a storm a bomb is how fast the atmospheric pressure falls; falling atmospheric pressure is a characteristic of all storms. By definition, the barometric pressure must drop by at least 24 millibars in 24 hours for a storm to be called a bomb cyclone.
Here is how it works: Deep drops in barometric pressure occur when a region of warm air meets one of cold air. The air starts to move, and the rotation of the Earth creates a cyclonic effect. The direction is counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere (when viewed from above), leading to winds that come out of the northeast — a Nor’easter.
That’s what happened at the end of October, when warm air from the remnants of a tropical cyclone over the Atlantic collided with a cold front coming from the Midwest. Among other effects then, more than 80,000 customers in Maine lost power as high winds toppled trees.
A similar effect was occurring Wednesday, as warm air over the ocean met extremely cold polar air that had descended over the East. Pressure was expected to fall quickly from Florida northward.
Why is it so cold? What’s the influence of climate change?
The Times’s Henry Fountain takes a look. Read more here.
Northeastern states were preparing for a major blow.
The Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, with heavy snowfall and wind chills as low as minus 25 degrees expected.
Kathryn Garcia, the commissioner of the Department of Sanitation in New York City, encouraged New Yorkers to avoid driving and use mass transit instead. The New York City Department of Education announced on Wednesday evening that all public schools would be closed Thursday.
Chilly gusts of up to 50 m.p.h. are likely to whip eastern Long Island and southeastern Connecticut starting late Thursday morning, with the potential for downed tree limbs and scattered power failures, the National Weather Service said.
Thursday’s storm is expected to drop 10 to 14 inches of snow or more on Boston and potentially create blizzard conditions along the New England coast. The storm will follow a long period of deep cold that has already taxed transit systems, fuel supplies and homeless shelters in the region.
Around an inch of snow is expected in Washington, with a winter weather advisory in effect until 11 a.m. Thursday.
Even Florida got a rare dusting as snow fell in Southeast.
Some states in the Southeast were blanketed with snow, with up to six inches recorded in parts of Georgia and North Carolina and four to seven inches across parts of South Carolina, the National Weather Service said.
Snow even fell on Tallahassee, Florida’s capital. More than 50 miles of Interstate 10 were closed in the Tallahassee area, as well as parts of Highway 90. Mark Wool, a Weather Service meteorologist, said that flurries seemed to come along every few years there. But the snow accumulation Wednesday — about a tenth to two-tenths of an inch — had not been seen since 1989.
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