PITTSBURGH - A frigid Arctic air mass brought record low temperatures to Pennsylvania, closing schools, courts and even some ski slopes.
Western Pennsylvania temperatures were in the mid-20s Monday before dipping precipitously after noon.
The temperature in Pittsburgh fell to minus 7 degrees late Monday night -- a record low for that date -- and continued falling to minus 9 on Tuesday, another record.
The previous record low for Jan. 7 was minus 5 in 1884.
The all-time low of 22 degrees below zero was set on Jan. 19, 1994.
A wind chill advisory for much of the Channel 11 viewing area remains in effect until 9 a.m. Wednesday, and emergency personal urge everyone who must go outside to use extreme caution during these downright frigid times.
Doctors warn that you can get frostbite in 3 to 5 minutes.
Wednesday will warm up with a high of 22 degrees and a wind chill of minus 10 degrees. Temperatures are expected to climb into the low 40s by the weekend.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, whose Monday inauguration was moved indoors as the deep-freeze set in, has ordered city police to bring homeless people from makeshift encampments to various shelters.
Allegheny County opened five warming centers in and around the city and several other suburbs made facilities available, especially for the elderly or those with substandard utilities.
On Tuesday, most schools, courts and many government offices closed in western Pennsylvania, where wind chills reached minus 30 to minus 40 during the coldest morning hours.
The cold weather also caused scattered power outages, as utilities scrambled to restore service even while urging folks to conserve electricity to keep from overloading the grid. By daybreak Tuesday, West Penn Power reported more than 5,000 customers without electricity in Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette and Washington counties, though service was restored to nearly all those customers by the afternoon.
The cold was oppressive enough that some ski resorts closed or limited activities.
Blue Knob Resort, about 80 miles east of Pittsburgh, closed until Wednesday morning. Hidden Valley and Seven Springs, sister resorts about 50 miles southeast of the city, opened some slopes but kept others closed to take advantage of ideal snow-making temperatures. Some slopes at both resorts were to remain closed Wednesday, so grooming machines can distribute the man-made snow.
On Monday, two reactors shut down at FirstEnergy Corp.'s Beaver Valley Nuclear Power Station in Shippingport, about 25 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.
"There are many potential reasons this could happen and the cold weather is one of them," FirstEnergy spokeswoman Jennifer Young said. "But there are hundreds of other causes we're considering."
Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Neil Sheehan called the shutdown "uneventful" and safe, but noted a fire suppression system was activated, dousing an electrical transformer with water.
There were no immediate reports of deaths from the extreme cold, though doctors at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center hospitals reported treating at least five people for frostbite.
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