Saturday could be one of the coldest days in years in Massachusetts


By Terry Eliasen, WBZ-TV Meteorologist, Executive Weather Producer

BOSTON –  The WBZ Weather Team has issued a NEXT Weather Alert for a frigid Friday and Saturday.

As the month of January is winding down, it is only fitting that our lead weather story is a shot of bitterly cold, Arctic air, by far, the coldest air we have seen this winter.

Typically, by this point in January, we have had at least a few cold “outbreaks.” This year, nada.

Boston had just one day this month with below average temperatures (and it was only one degree below). The city has not had one day this month with a low temperature below 20 or a high temperature at 32 or below, both records. With one day left, it looks like January 2023 will finish in third place for warmest January ever recorded in Boston.

All of this makes what is coming later this week even more remarkable. How strange would it be to have one of the coldest winter days in years smack dab in the middle of one of the warmest winters on record?

The silver lining with this cold shot, there will be absolutely NO staying power. The cold will bottom out early Saturday and, by Sunday afternoon, temperatures will already be back near 40 degrees. And, beyond that, the long-range outlook for the first few weeks of February looks like more of the same – mild. 

Ok, so the cold is coming, no doubt about it, the only question is how low do we go? Looking back at the last 10 years, Boston has dropped below zero on 6 occasions, the last of which was about 5 years ago.

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If you go back and look at the 150 or so years of record keeping in Boston, the city has seen some REALLY cold days, most of which were back in the late 1800s and early 20th century. The all-time lowest temperature ever recorded was 18 below back in 1934 – YIKES!

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I don’t think we will be challenging any of those all-time records, but some daily records are certainly well within reach.

Friday will be an upside-down day with the warmest temperatures coming early in the morning, followed by an all-day temperature plunge. 

The high temperature for the day on Friday will go into the books somewhere around 32 degrees. Again, this comes early in the day. By noon, the entire area (north of the South Coast) will be in the teens.

By the evening commute, most of southern New England is in the single digits.

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Overnight, we bottom out with most of the area dipping below zero.

There is potential for actual air temperatures to drop as low as -10 to -20 degrees by Saturday morning.

If the city of Boston were to hit -10, that would be the coldest reading recorded in more than 60 years, since January 15, 1957!

The low-temperature record for the date on Saturday is -2 degrees (set way back in 1886), I would say odds are very high of beating that. 

Combine that with the potential for wind gusts over 20 mph early on Saturday and wind chill readings are absolutely ridiculous. Worst-case scenario, parts of the area north and west of Boston could have feel-like temperatures between -20 and -40 degrees!

During the day Saturday, the winds calm down, but temperatures are only likely to recover into the teens. Easily our coldest day of the season thus far.

Remarkably, the cold will exit as quickly as it arrives! By Sunday afternoon, temperatures will be back to near or above normal, around 40 degrees and there could even be some RAIN showers around that evening!

With cold this severe, there are several things to keep in mind. Frostbite can form in less than 15 minutes. If you have to go out early on Saturday, it is better to be prepared than caught off-guard.

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There will be wide-ranging impacts from potential damage to fruit trees to pipes bursting. It would be wise to check the status of your car battery if you are heading out in the core of the cold and also take precautions if your pipes are old or have a history of bursting.

Lastly, this could be a situation ripe for “frost quakes,” otherwise known as “cryoseisms.” That’s the new weather word of the day! These can feel like mini earthquakes and can often be accompanied by loud boom sounds. Essentially, the rapidly falling and extreme cold temperatures cause water beneath the ground to freeze. The new ice expands, putting pressure on the surrounding soil and bedrock. This CAN lean to frost quakes or cryoseisms! Nothing to be all that concerned with, but if you hear a boom, now you will know!

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Stay with WBZ-TV, and CBS News Boston for frequent updates leading up to and during the cold outbreak later this week!


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