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Bitter Cold, Brisk Wind Hits Tri-State Area — Coldest In 3 Years

And As Bad As New York City Has It, Other Places Are In An Even Deeper Freeze
Frozen Fountain

This fountain on Boston Post Road was frozen and covered with icicles Tuesday. (Credit: CBS 2)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Folks around the Tri-State Area got a strong taste of winter Tuesday, thanks to brisk winds and below-freezing temperatures, and the trend was expected to continue Wednesday.

On Wednesday morning, the conditions will be even more severe than anything experienced so far this week. The temperature in the city will be 10 degrees, with a wind chill making it feel like between minus-5 and minus-15. The air temperature in Monticello will be just 4 degrees, according to CBS 2’s Lonnie Quinn.

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Even during the day, while the high will hit 21, the wind chill will make it feel like no more than 5 degrees at any point Wednesday.

Conditions were sunny, but cold and blustery all day on Tuesday.

Quinn said it was 14 degrees in Central Park just after 11 p.m. Tuesday night, and as low as 10 in some outlying areas. The wind chill made it feel like 0 in the city, and as low as minus-2 elsewhere.

Winds were beating through the area at 20 mph, Quinn reported.

The afternoon dew point was minus-8 degrees – the driest figure in a year. But that will change later in the week, with snow expected to hit the area late on Friday.

Preliminary figures call for accumulation of 3 to 6 inches in the city.

Bitter Cold Means Danger Outside

The cold weather and high winds make for a dangerous mix and keeping warm is crucial.

The blast of bitter cold is testing the toughness of New Yorkers who were bundling up in scarves and sweaters and clutching hot drinks while on the move.

“If you don’t have nothing to do out here, don’t come, but if you have a job to do you have to do what you have to do,” said sightseeing guide Alpha Balde, who was to brave the cold in Times Square for eight hours to lure tourists.

“It’s the coldest it’s been all year for sure,” said Trevor Davis, who works outside. “Just trying to stay bundled up and trying to stay inside or in my car as much as possible. Honestly, just trying to stay warm stay in the heat.”

The sun was shining brightly all day, but its rays were impotent as they glistened off a frozen fountain on Boston Post Road. Whatever warmth the sun offered, it was only of use for those enjoying it from the other side of a window dressed in plastic and Mortite putty.

And the relentless, penetrating deep freeze sailed in on a stiff breeze, making it hard to talk.

Pity those who had to work outside. A police officer told CBS 2’s Lou Young that he kept adding layers of clothing before going out on duty.

“I’ve got three layers on, at least, and plus the raincoat to cut the wind,” said White Plains Police Sgt. Pat O’Geary. “I’m not coming back out here tomorrow, one day of this is enough.”

Construction workers know to keep moving, and pick their spots. One of them even decided to camp out in a ditch.

And working with water? Forget about it.

“When it’s this cold, we try to dry the cars off in the tunnel before it comes outside because it’s a little warmer in the tunnel. It’s warmer for the guys,” said car wash manager Mike Donnado.

And this is just the start of it. Plumbers are watching older homes, waiting for frozen pipes by the end of the week.

“We’ve been waiting for this for two years,” said plumber Jim DiBuono.

The cold was also particularly hard on first responders. A total of 168 firefighters were dispatched Tuesday afternoon to a fire that ripped through three buildings on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

“It’s very, very difficult,” said FDNY Deputy Chief Robert Strong. “Once everything starts to freeze over, it’s trying to put out a fire in an ice skating rink.”

And it was not just the workers suffering. More than a dozen people were forced out of their homes by the fire.

They had no idea when they’ll get back inside to get warm clothes or any of their belongings, CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider reported.

The nights were also tough for the city’s homeless, as 1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon reported. Rincon rode along for a nightly food delivery with the Coalition For the Homeless.

“We are bringing soup, we are bringing milk, oranges and bread to different spots,” said Grand Central Food program director Juan De La Cruz.

On Wednesday night, they will be handing out blankets and winter clothes at drop-off points, thanks to donations.

The volunteers encouraged the homeless to find a shelter or a place to stay. They remind the homeless that the city’s shelters don’t ask as many questions, and are more likely to take people in when there is a “code blue” for the bitter cold.

One woman, who did not want to share her name, was happy to get some soup. But she was not sure if she would find a warm place to stay, as there was a particular shelter she hoped to use.

“I just walk a lot so my toes don’t stay numb; go to the train station because it’s pretty warm,” she told Rincon.

Sandy Victims Hit Hard Again

In many places, staying warm is especially challenging for victims of Superstorm Sandy who still don’t have heat. As CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reported, Sandy destroyed boilers and furnaces in tens of thousands of homes.

“It was so cold last night, and tonight will be worse,” said Barbra Rubin-Perry of Island Park in Nassau County. “We are just freezing here.”

Sandy flood waters destroyed the baseboard heater in Rubin-Perry’s room, so she is making do.

“We pull the couch out, and we sleep on the couch,” she said.

The living room in Rubin-Perry’s house has a new baseboard heater, installed through a Nassau County emergency program. A second was installed in the basement – barely enough to protect the water pipes in the 450-square-foot space.

“It’s very cold and, we’re concerned if those pipes break here we go again,” she said.

The dusting of snow over Sandy debris was a clear indication that Island Park remains in the early stages of recovery.

The Ruscio family has been trying to utilize all their options to stay warm without working heat – a natural gas heater, an electrical heater, and a propane heater were all in use Tuesday. A kerosene heater was also at the ready.

“Whatever it takes, I’m going to do,” said Steve Ruscio.

But the Ruscios and the heaters are not in their house. They are sleeping in their recreational vehicle, and only using the bathroom in the house – a need that requires bundling up late at night.

Still, considering how mild the weather has been since the storm hit on Oct. 29, Ruscio said he feels fortunate overall.

“We’ve lucked out big time with the temperatures; temperatures have been really favorable to us. Now we’re getting into winter time, cold – Thursday, 9 degrees? It’s going to be tough,” he said.

On Staten Island, staying warm is also especially challenging for Sandy victims.

“This is New York and there are people freezing here,” said resident Anthony Marotto. “No heat, no hot water, no kitchens, no bathrooms, can’t even take a shower, can’t even go to the bathroom and wash your hands and there’s so many people down here like that.”

Volunteers are setting up tents with hot food and space heaters and offering simple survival tips to those who have already suffered so much.

“Problem is you get too warm getting in and out of the truck you end up getting sick,” bread deliveryman David DeCruz, who was getting by with gloves and a hoody sweatshirt, told WCBS 880’s Paul Murnane, who was reporting from Stamford.

He’s been on the job for 22 years.

“It’s my kids. My kids keep me going,” he said.

Around The Country…

Bitter cold was affecting many parts of the country this week – and some have been hit significantly harder than New York.

On Tuesday morning in Chicago, it was 1 degree at O’Hare International Airport with a wind chill of minus-10 to minus-15 degrees. In the late afternoon, the temperature had climbed only to 11 degrees.

In Minneapolis, the morning low Tuesday was minus-12, and in the afternoon, the high climbed just 1 degree.

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