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Slow melt after two days of record cold

Thomas Virgilio with his daughter Gabriella, 3, in

Thomas Virgilio with his daughter Gabriella, 3, in his lap and Lilianna, 5, right, of Smithtown, play in the snow in Hauppauge. (Jan. 4, 2014) Credit: Ed Betz

As temperatures clawed above bone-rattling cold and snow began to melt across Long Island Saturday, other parts of the country braced for a deep freeze, with potential record-low temperatures heightening fears of frostbite and hypothermia.

Temperatures were below freezing on Long Island early Saturday -- in the single digits across much of the area and subzero in the pine barrens section of Suffolk County.

"Long Islanders don't see these temperatures very often," Joey Picca, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said.

Meteorologist Lauren Nash said temperatures warmed to the high 20s in Islip Saturday afternoon, the sunshine allowing some melting of the nearly 12 inches of powder that dropped across the region Thursday night and Friday morning.

But early Saturday, officials warned of potential threats to health as arctic temperatures blasted Long Island. Temperatures fell to zero at 7:30 a.m. at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma, the coldest recorded there since Jan. 15, 1988, when it was minus 7 degrees, according to meteorologists.

Friday's low temperature was 7 degrees at the Islip Town airport, tying the record set in 2001. But the coldest spot on Long Island Saturday was in Westhampton Beach, where it was minus 13.

In addition, 6 1/2 inches of snowfall Friday in Islip broke the previous daily record of 2.1 inches set in 2010.

Sunday, temperatures are forecast to reach the low 40s.

Picca said there is a "low end" chance that parts of the Island could see freezing rain Sunday. The forecast, he said, calls for rain late Sunday and into Monday morning. Temperatures are expected to reach the mid-40s Monday but could fall back into the teens and low 20s by Tuesday.

In the Midwest, New England and the South, The Associated Press reported, frigid air is expected to extend from Sunday into early next week, funneled as far south as the Gulf Coast.

Parts of New England dropped into the negatives early Saturday, with East Brighton, Vt., seeing 30 below zero just after midnight and Allagash, Maine, hitting minus 36.

Predictions elsewhere included 25 below zero in Fargo, N.D., minus 31 in International Falls, Minn., and 15 below in Indianapolis and Chicago.

At those temperatures, exposed skin can get frostbitten in minutes, and hypothermia can quickly set in as wind chills may reach 50, 60 or even 70 below zero.

Even wind chills of 25 below zero can do serious damage, said National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Truett in St. Louis. "Those are dangerous levels of wind chill," he said of the expected wind chill in Missouri at daybreak Monday. "A person not properly dressed could die easily in those conditions."

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