By Doug Ireland
---- — If yesterday seemed windy and cold, brace yourself.
The temperature is expected to reach a high of 12 degrees today, with the wind chill plummeting to 14 degrees below zero, according to the National Weather Service.
And don’t expect the frigid weather to let up any time soon, meteorologist Robert Marine said.
Plan on the temperature dropping to 5 degrees below zero tonight and the wind chill as low as 15 below.
It will be sunny and warmer tomorrow, but only 15 degrees for a high temperature. Temperatures are then expected to remain in the low 20s for the next three days.
“The cold air is going to stay with us for a while,” said Marine, who works out of the NWS office in Gray, Maine.
“It’s the coldest Arctic air we’ve had so far this year,” he said.
The average daily temperature for this time of year is in the low 30s, he said.
Snow could fall Friday night, but it’s still too early to make predictions, Marine said.
With colder weather closing in, the New Hampshire Office of Energy and Planning is seeing an increase in people seeking help paying for their heating oil. But that’s not unusual this time of year, fuel assistance program manager Celeste Lovett said.
“In the last week, we are getting calls from people who never applied before,” she said. “The cold weather will draw people into the program. ... We’re getting calls from people with no heat or (those) who are running low.”
There are 27,297 applicants vying for $26 million in fuel assistance, the same amount New Hampshire received last year, Lovett said. People can still apply through April 30 and should dial 211, she said.
Temperatures were in the 20s yesterday, but some local plumbers already were receiving calls for frozen pipes and expecting more as the week progresses.
Ponds and lakes were freezing over after a spring-like thaw over the weekend that saw temperatures soar into the 40s in Southern New Hampshire. But fire officials warn some ice may still not be safe.
Yesterday’s sunny weather drew some people onto the ice, including Hood Pond in Derry. Teens were playing hockey there yesterday afternoon.
Just because it’s cold out, doesn’t mean the ice is safe, according to Salem fire Chief Kevin Breen. He recommends ice be at least 6 inches thick before going onto it.
“Although it’s getting cold, we are still trying to get out the message,” Breen said. “Be careful wherever you are. Just because the ice is thick in one area, doesn’t mean it’s thick everywhere else.”
People have been ice fishing on Canobie Lake in the last few days, but late last week there was open water on Arlington Pond, he said.
Derry fire Lt. Shawn Haggert agreed with Breen that a person can never be too safe when stepping out on the ice.
“You never know when there’s a change of current,” he said.
Animal experts said precautions must be taken to protect pets from the wintry blast that will hit the region. The frigid temperatures are expected to last until Monday.
Pet and livestock owners should make sure their animals are protected from the bitter chill, according to Hampstead Animal Control Officer Sheila Johannesen.
“Any animal, like us, can get hypothermia,” she said. “If it’s too cold for them, it’s too cold for their pet.”
They should be kept inside the house or at least provided some type of shelter from the cold, Johannesen said.
Owners should also make sure their animals have plenty of water because they easily become dehydrated in the cold, she said.
Johannesen also recommends washing pets’ paws if they may have stepped in road salt. Pets can become ill if they lick paws covered with salt, she said.
“Try to wash them off as much as you can,” Johannesen said.