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BOSTON — State officials advised that staying warm was of "paramount" importance Monday as Massachusetts faced its coldest weather in years.
By 11 a.m., temperatures in Boston had risen to 5 degrees; by 4 p.m., 13 degrees. But overnight and early Monday, temperatures in the city registered below zero, with wind chills well below. Central Massachusetts and other parts of the state were even colder. The town of Orange was 21 degrees below zero overnight.
The extreme cold spell is expected to break Tuesday, with highs in the mid-30s.
Both Gov. Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino urged residents to take precautions against the cold. Patrick put all state agencies on alert for cold-related issues and asked the largest emergency shelters to stay open around the clock.
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Officials urged residents to stay inside and minimize outdoor activities.
"Stay indoors as much as possible," Patrick said. "If you have to be out, bundle up and stay out for short periods of time. Look out for others."
"Now's a good time to be a good neighbor," said Peter Judge, of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. "Reach out, touch base with folks in your neighborhood, particularly the elderly, the infirm, those folks who obviously need assistance."
Despite the cold, Boston emergency rooms said they did not see many people with cold weather-related problems.
Dr. Andrew Ulrich, of Boston Medical Center, said there were no frostbite cases and just a handful of patients with low body temperatures.
"It goes to the fact that the city of Boston, the shelters, the police, EMS, have done a very, very, very good job of getting out there and getting to the vulnerable population, getting to the people who are really at risk," Ulrich said.
Mass General Hospital also reported no frostbite cases and a single homeless individual who came to the ER with low body temperature.
The cold did affect transportation around Greater Boston. The MBTA moved trains into tunnels or covered depots to try to keep the them warm overnight, but several trains disabled Monday morning, creating delays on numerous lines and the commuter rails. Dozens of bus routes also experienced delays.
The cold didn't cause any major problems at Logan International Airport.
A number of schools held cold-weather delays Monday morning.
Lyndia Downie, the president of Pine Street Inn, said the homeless shelter was packed with residents overnight.
"All the beds in the city are full so we opened our lobby and let people sleep on the floor," she said. "We have cots, we have mats, you know we add extra staff, we prepare additional meals and obviously the building is open all day long."
Correction: An earlier version of this post said Boston had opened emergency warming shelters. The shelters were ready to open if Boston declared a state of emergency.
This program aired on January 24, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.