WILKES-BARRE — Record-breaking frigid temperatures gripped the Northeast on Tuesday.
Sub-zero temperatures — with the wind chill making it feel 20 degrees colder — greeted workers and commuters starting their day.
Tom Clark, a meteorologist at WNEP-TV, said Tuesday’s low dipped to -4 degrees at about 7 a.m., shattering a record low in 1988 of 3 degrees for Jan. 7.
The temperatures didn’t get much warmer during the day. According to the National Weather Service, the high of 6 degrees reached at 12:05 p.m. set a record for the coldest high temperature for the date. The previous record was 14 set in 1942.
Despite the extreme cold, postal workers were living proof that the U.S. Postal Service creed is alive and well. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night — nor bone-chilling temperatures — stopped service.
Nicholas Matson III, supervisor of customer services at the U.S. Post Office on South Main Street, said it was a typical day at work for the 150 carriers. Most operate on a loop pattern. They park their vehicle, walk around a block to deliver mail then move on to the next block.
Carriers are well-prepared for colder weather. Matson said they instructed on weather safety and are given safety talks. They’re also dressed for the occasion.
“They’re dressing in layers, they’re using hand warmers and feet warmers,” Matson said. “They tough it out, pretty much. It’s a tough day today.”
Though most people were encouraged to stay indoors to escape the bitter cold, some might have opted for a warming cup of coffee or bowl of soup at The Cafe an American Bistro in Plains Township. A worker there said it’s hard to say how busy it’ll be on any given day, but on Tuesday the restaurant had a crowd.
“Soup and coffee is just (selling) like crazy,” the worker said, adding the store had sold double the amount of soup that it normally does.
The cold did more than just give people a craving for soup and a good cup of Joe.
• Public schools: All school districts in Luzerne County were closed as a result of the low temperatures.
• Airports: Flights in and out of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport were generally on time as of Tuesday morning. A few coming in and out of Chicago were canceled due to the weather.
• Bus service: According to the Luzerne County Transportation Authority’s website, buses were on their normal schedules.
• Hospitals: Matthew Van Stone, public relations specialist for Geisinger Health System, said no cold-related ailments have been reported from the Wilkes-Barre facility’s emergency department. Van Stone also said no calls came from Luzerne County 911 for cold-related incidents.
• Blood drive: Colin Riccobon, communications program manager for the American Red Cross, said the weather played a factor. In the past few days, due to school closings and road closings, along with forecasts, fewer people have come in to donate. The blood supply, however, remains stable. “The winter months are always tough. As the weather improves, it’s going to be that much more important to go out and find a blood drive and donate,” Riccobon said.
• Homeless: Ruth’s Place shelter for women in Wilkes-Barre had six women stay the night. An official said one or two a day is normal. She said phone assessments are typically done before decisions are made, but women came to the door looking for a place to stay. The Catherine McAuley Center is also reporting an influx of residents looking for a place to escape the cold. An official said the facility will likely reach its capacity, which is 17 children and nine women.
• Turnpike: Because extremely low temperatures are expected across the turnpike system into today, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has extended the Winter Weather Advisory. The advisory area includes East/West Turnpike I-76/I-276: Blue Mountain (Exit 201) — Delaware River Bridge (Exit 359) and Northeastern Extension I-476: Mid-County (Exit 20) — Clarks Summit (Exit 131).