SUNBURY —Bone-chilling temperatures brought on by a surge of Arctic air combined with brisk winds to plunge lows into the teens Tuesday night.
The record, 13 in 1936, was in jeopardy at higher elevations in the region, said Carl Erickson, a meteorologist with AccuWeather in State College. “Temperatures Tuesday night ranged from about 13 to 16,” he said.
It was cold enough for shoppers at Monroe Marketplace in Hummels Wharf and on North Fourth Street in Sunbury to bundle up in their heaviest coats, hats, scarves and gloves.
“It’s too early for this,” said a freezing Marlena Dressler, of Shamokin Dam, while running from her car to a big box department store. “Is this February or November?” she asked, taking it all in stride with a laugh.
When told that every state in the union — including Hawaii — recorded below freezing temperatures, she shook her head and asked, “Has that ever happened before?”
Well, yes, it has, said Erickson.
“This happens quite often during the year,” he said. “What’s different this time is that it happened so early in the year. Now that is unusual.”
In Hawaii, by the way, a 31 degree temperature was recorded at the top of a 13,000-foot high volcano, and had nothing to do with a polar vortex.
In the past seven days across the lower 48 states, there were 1,455 record daily low temperatures set or tied Tuesday, along with 682 daily records for the coldest overnight temperature.
America as a whole awoke Tuesday to the coldest it has been in November since 1976 — 38 years ago. The average temperature in the continental U.S. plummeted overnight to only 19.4 degrees, typical of mid-winter, not Nov. 18.
Temperatures today should settle in the low 30s during the day before sinking back to the 20s at night. Cold air pushes east through tonight with a reinforcing shot of Arctic air from the North Pole and Siberia to arrive on Thursday in the Great Lakes.
That’s is not pleasing news to Joanne and Bill Clifford, of Sunbury. Joanne is a secretary in Bloomsburg; Bill drives a truck.
Neither of them like the cold.
Both get up early for work and don’t get home until well after dark, when temperatures are the coldest.
They had planned to shop tonight.
“I don’t think this will prevent us from getting an early start on Christmas shopping this weekend,” Joanne Clifford said, wrapping her arms around her husband’s waist. “But it’s uncomfortable. I’d rather be at home in a warm house.”
Weather should remain cold through Saturday, when the jet stream moves north, allowing more moderate southern temperatures to dominate.
By Sunday night, AccuWeather predicts lows of 40s at night.
And by Monday, guess what? We could top an all-time high of 67, recorded in 1931. “Imagine that,” Erickson said. “This week nearly 10 degrees, next week, almost 70. I suppose you’ll see people running around in shorts and T-shirts next week.”
The wintry weather was blamed for four deaths when a storm dumped more than 4 feet of snow around Buffalo and forced motorists in 150 vehicles, including a women’s basketball team, to ride it out.
One person was killed in an automobile accident and three others had heart attacks, including two believed to be shoveling snow at the time, Erie County officials said.
The snowstorm stranded cars, trucks and buses on a four-mile section near Buffalo.
By late Tuesday night, many — but not all — had been freed.
Some motorists had been trapped for nearly 24 hours.
Officials said freeing the vehicles was delayed after two tractor-trailers jack-knifed as they were being moved.
“It seemed like a nightmare. It just didn’t feel like it was going to end,” Bryce Foreback, 23, of Shicora, Pennsylvania. told The Associated Press by cellphone 20 hours into his wait for help.
“I haven’t slept in like 30 hours and I’m just waiting to get out of here.”
Members of the Niagara University women’s basketball team were napping on and off 17 hours into their wait.
Some got so thirsty they drank melted snow, said coach Kendra Faustin, who was traveling with her 1-year-old.