A frigid swirling system known as a polar vortex, which usually stays near the North Pole and Canada, slid south and pushed temperatures in the tri-state toward bone-chilling record lows on Tuesday.
Temperatures in Central Park dove to 4 degrees Tuesday morning, beating a 118-year record of 6 degrees for Jan. 7 set in 1896. Record lows were also observed at LaGuardia, Newark and John F. Kennedy airports, and on Long Island, where it was 7 degrees in Islip, six below the record of 13 degrees set in 1988.
All 50 states had temperatures below freezing Tuesday, including Hawaii's Mauna Kea peak at nearly 14,000 feet.
In New York City, the polar vortex system will keep temperatures from advancing beyond the low teens Tuesday and is bringing howling winds that could make it feel as frigid as 15 degrees below zero.
Polar Vortex Explained: Arctic Air Slides South
Such chilling temperatures can induce frostbite within 10 minutes. People should spend as little time as possible outdoors, and when they do have to go outside, they should take adequate precautions against both the wind and the cold. The wind is expected to die down by Tuesday night, but the cold will linger.
"Stay in," Mayor de Blasio warned Tuesday at City Hall. "Don't go out if you don't need to go out."
Dead car batteries are also problematic in this type of cold. AAA spokeswoman Tracy Noble said that as of 9 a.m. Tuesday in New Jersey, AAA had to jump 77 car batteries and tow 96 vehicles, many of them because they wouldn't start in the cold. The company's taken hundreds of similar calls from New Jersey to Virginia since midnight as the polar vortex consumed the region.
The polar vortex forms every year to the north, but large blocks of high pressure over Greenland and the Southwest weakened the jet stream in recent days, allowing part of the polar vortex to break off from a parent system and dip in to the US.
The polar vortex also brings blustery winds gusting up to 40 or 50 mph, making it feel as much as 25 degrees below zero in places. Wind advisories are in effect throughout the area until 6 p.m.
Alternate side parking in New York City is suspended Tuesday, and sanitation crews are standing by to address icy roads.
Forecasters expect less brutal weather Wednesday with highs in the mid-20s before temperatures climb back into the mid-30s Thursday. The warming trend should continue Friday with temperatures in the 40s before soaring into the 50s by the weekend.
Light snow is possible Thursday night into Friday, though it may change to rain or mix with it in the city and is not expected to result in any significant accumulation. Last week, a winter storm dumped 10 inches of snow on parts of New York City and nearly a foot on parts of Long Island.