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Hard freeze kills 10 in Northeast, Midwest US
( 2004-01-17 09:31) (Agencies)

Record cold pushed power use toward all-time highs around the Northeast of the Unieted States on Friday, and utilities asked customers to conserve power as a precaution against blackouts.

Boston's Logan Airport hit minus-7, the coldest mark there since 1980, and water from firefightersĄŻ hoses turned to ice before temperatures began creeping up.

A homeless man, Ricky Macintyre, bundles up on a Philadelphia street January 16, 2004. [AP]
"This is inhuman punishment, man," said John King, stamping his feet as he stood in line for a security check outside a courthouse in White Plains, N.Y.

At least 10 people have died as the latest cold snap moved east from the Midwest: five in the Northeast, including a woman in New York and a hiker found in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, in addition to five in Michigan earlier this week.

But temperatures warmed later in the day, as two Canadian weather systems that were funneling arctic air over New England moved eastward and began sending the bitter cold out to sea.

Wind chill warnings were downgraded to advisories, and temperatures were expected to rise into the 20s Saturday and the low 30s Sunday for much of the region.

"We're going to leave the bitter arctic cold behind and go with just normal winter cold," said Alan Dunham, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Taunton, Mass.

Power holding up, so far

No major blackouts had been reported by Friday afternoon.

Electricity suppliers sought voluntary cutbacks to make sure that they had enough natural gas to run their generators and that their equipment did not go down from overuse. New Jersey Natural Gas Co. said natural gas use was 50 percent higher than normal Thursday, and Con Edison on Thursday beat the record it set just a day earlier in the New York area.

"People stay home more, turning on lights, watching television, listening to the radio or sitting at their computer," said Christ Olter, a spokesman for Con Ed. "In addition, you need electricity to power the pump that moves hot water or the fan that blows hot air."

About 3,500 customers in Rhode Island lost power for about two hours, but it was not immediately clear whether cold temperatures were a factor.

The chill hampered firefighters battling a fire at the historic Old Masonic Hall in Bangor, Maine. Water from hoses froze instantly in temperatures of minus-14, encasing the building in ice up to 10 inches thick and leaving it in danger of collapse from the weight.

Police in Quincy, Mass., about 10 miles south of Boston, used the cold to their advantage, turning off the heat to flush out a suspect hiding in an attic crawl space Friday morning.

10 die in frigid conditions

The weather was blamed for five deaths in the Northeast, including a woman who died in a midnight fire caused by her makeshift efforts to heat her New York City apartment with candles and a space heater. The arctic blast killed five other people earlier this week in Michigan.

A low of 1 degree was reported overnight in New York's Central Park, matching the record for Jan. 16 set in 1893, according to Mike Silva, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service.

Massachusetts cities also hit record lows, with the mercury falling to 12 below zero in Worcester, and nearly 350 school districts and private schools across the state were closed Friday because of concerns about students walking to school or waiting at bus stops.

"I can't remember ever closing school for the temperature," said Everett Superintendent Frederick Foresteire, a 38-year schools veteran.

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