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Mass. Prepares For Wind Chills Well Below 0

A cyclist battles the cold as he rides down Commonwealth Avenue on Thursday. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
A cyclist battles the cold as he rides down Commonwealth Avenue on Thursday. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
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Potentially dangerous cold and wind descends on Massachusetts Thursday evening into Friday morning.

A high wind warning goes into effect at 5 p.m. Thursday, with a wind chill advisory beginning at midnight. Wind gusts could reach 60 mph in Greater Boston, and wind chill readings could drop to -17 around the city.

The National Weather Service warns that with such low wind chills, "frostbite can occur in as little as 30 minutes if you are not protected from the cold."

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency has advised residents to minimize outdoor activities. Agency spokesperson Christopher Besse told WBUR that dressing warmly is a must if going outside is at all necessary.

"Essentially cover all the skin you can: hat, mittens, gloves, face warmers, that type of stuff for people who are spending any time outdoors, because that cold wind can really cause frostbite pretty quickly in those types of temperatures," Besse said.

He also advised drivers to keep an emergency kit in their cars, consisting of blankets, extra clothing, flashlights and nonperishable food.

(Courtesy National Weather Service)
(Courtesy National Weather Service)

Boston officials are coordinating with shelters to get people off the streets. The Pine Street Inn is open all day Thursday, and shelter officials say nobody will be turned away.

Barbara Trevisan, communications director for Pine Street Inn, told WBUR's Newscast Unit that, despite their efforts, some people living on the streets will not come inside no matter how cold it is — and they are ready to help those folks as well.

"If they don't come in, we will make sure they have warm blankets, warm clothing, hot food, and we will check on them regularly," Trevisan said.

As WBUR meteorologist David Epstein said in his forecast, the overnight strong winds could "cause tree damage and subsequent power outages."

The utilities Eversource and National Grid are not expecting widespread outages, but are bracing for higher than normal scattered outages, especially on Cape Cod and the Islands.

The companies said they are adding staff to be able to respond to outages.

(Courtesy National Weather Service)
(Courtesy National Weather Service)

As for transportation around Boston, MBTA officials say they are taking steps to keep the subway rolling through the bitter cold and windy weather.

"We are doing everything we can to mitigate the impacts of these extreme temperatures," T spokesman Joe Pesaturo told WBUR, "but there is a chance that we could have some problems."

Pesaturo says as many subway cars as possible will be stored indoors overnight Thursday to shelter them from the cold. T cars will also be running throughout the night in train yards to avoid freeze-ups and breakdowns. The T has also beefed up staff and will monitor Green Line tracks overnight to look out for fallen trees and wires.

Pesaturo advised MBTA customers to keep track of the latest weather updates by going online and watching social media.

According to Epstein, the extreme cold won't last long, as temperatures rise above freezing Saturday.

With reporting by WBUR's Newscast Unit and Bob Shaffer

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