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Arctic Chill Tapering Off in Coming Days Following Frigid East Coast Blast

Bitter cold temperatures on Friday covered much of the United States as a powerful nor'easter that caused power outages, coastal flooding, disrupted travel and school cancellations trudged north into Canada but forecasters said warmer temperatures more typical of early January were forecast to return in the coming days.

In a short-range forecast issued Friday morning, the National Weather Service (NWS) said the winter storm -- dubbed bombogenesis, aka a bomb cyclone by meteorologists -- had reached Nova Scotia and was dumping heavy snow across the Eastern Canada provinces. But a mass of Arctic air over the northeastern United States was projected to keep temperatures 20-30 degrees below average through at least Sunday.

"While conditions have begun to improve across the northeastern U.S., the Arctic surge is already underway accompanied by brisk winds at times," the NWS said Friday. "Dangerously low wind chill temperatures are to be expected the next couple of days with some blowing snow possible."

According to the NWS, wind chill advisories and warnings extended from the upper Midwest to the Great Lakes and the Ohio Valley, then from the Carolinas northward. Forecasters added that high temperatures through Saturday were unlikely to reach double digits across the upper Midwest, the Great Lakes, the central and northern Appalachians, and much of New England.

"This easily reaches the 20-30 degrees below climatology range, which supports a chance for many daily temperature records to be broken," the NWS said. Frigid temperatures were also likely to extend southward to the eastern Gulf Coast and central Florida. "Many daily records may be broken across this sector of the country as well."

AccuWeather Inc. reported Friday that a weak storm would bring ice and some snow, but a surge of milder air was expected to relieve the eastern part of the country in the early part of the week.

"While heavy precipitation is not anticipated by the storm at this time, it just takes a small amount of ice to make roads and sidewalks a skating rink," said AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Elliot Abrams.

Freezing rain was expected to fall Sunday evening and into Monday along the East Coast, AccuWeather said, in an area stretching from the southern Appalachians and Piedmont areas to the Ohio Valley, the central Appalachians and the upper mid-Atlantic coast. Meanwhile, snow was expected to begin Sunday night in the western foothills of the Appalachians, and was forecast to reach the Atlantic coast on Monday.

"While there is still some risk for the storm to strengthen and slow down upon reaching the Atlantic coast, the latest indications are that the steering winds will remain westerly enough to push the storm quickly out to sea on Monday night," Abrams said.

According to AccuWeather, New York City is forecast to have daytime highs in the 30s in the coming week, along with nighttime lows in the 20s. If those temperatures were to come to fruition, they would be 10-20 degrees higher than what the city experienced through most of late December.

Peak Demand Cracks Top 10

PJM Interconnection said preliminary peak demand for electricity was 136,206 MW on Friday morning. While that figure was not the regional transmission organization's (RTO) all-time winter peak, officials said it made it into the top 10 and registered as the highest load for the current cold snap.

PJM said the storm caused no power generation or transmission issues, and there were no major issues with natural gas pipelines. All reserves were maintained, officials said.

"PJM does not expect any generation, transmission or gas pipeline concerns but has issued Cold Weather Alerts (CWA) for the RTO through Sunday due to single-digit temperatures," PJM said. "A CWA prepares personnel and facilities for expected extreme cold weather conditions, when actual temperatures are projected to fall near or below 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

"PJM communicates with generator owners and tells them to be prepared to call in additional staff to get all generating units running for the morning load pickup. They must take extra care to maintain the equipment so that it doesn't freeze in the cold weather."

According to PJM, the RTO's system load was forecast to decline to 127,023 MW on Saturday, then retreat further to 120,282 MW on Sunday and 114,420 MW on Monday.

Transportation Nightmare

On Friday morning, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) tweeted that wind and blowing snow was delaying flights at Boston's Logan and New York City's LaGuardia, JFK and Newark Liberty airports. Meanwhile, wind was expected to cause delays at the three airports that serve the nation's capital region: Dulles, Reagan National and BWI.

FlightView, a flight-tracking website, reported major delays Friday afternoon at JFK, Philadelphia International Airport and the Halifax International Airport in Nova Scotia. Another flight-tracking website, FlightAware, reported that 5,497 flights were cancelled and 16,571 flights were delayed on Thursday. Friday's numbers were much improved, with 1,766 flights cancelled and 11,872 delayed. As of Friday afternoon, 122 flights on Saturday had already been cancelled while 156 were projected to be delayed. Twenty-five cancellations and two delays were listed for Sunday.

The storm forced one flight, Singapore Airlines Flight 26 from Frankfurt, Germany, to divert from its scheduled landing at JFK to Stewart International Airport, a much smaller facility in Orange County, NY, about 80 miles from JFK. According to reports, passengers aboard the Airbus A380 had to disembark using outdoor stairs because the airport's gates were not high enough to reach the plane's doors.

Amtrak modified its schedule throughout the northeast corridor on Thursday, with reduced trains running on Friday. Shuttle service between Springfield, MA, and New Haven, CT, was also put on a modified schedule.

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