MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Train equipment froze, cars sputtered, schools canceled classes and cold-weather enthusiasts opted to stay inside Monday as a bitter blast of below-zero temperatures gripped the Northeast.

The gasp-inducing cold — temperatures reached into the minus-30s with wind chill factors even colder — tested the mettle even of New Englanders, who pride themselves on winter hardiness.

“Snot-freezing cold,” was how Kelly Walsh, 28, described it, walking home from an auto parts store in Vermont’s capital after buying a new battery for her car, which wouldn’t start Monday morning. It was minus 21 there at 7 a.m.

“I usually really like it,” she said. “Today is a bit of nuisance.”

Schools in western and northeastern Pennsylvania, across upstate New York and in parts of Vermont and New Hampshire closed their doors or delayed openings.

Amtrak suspended service between Albany and New York City, saying the extreme cold affected signals and switches. It hoped to resume service Tuesday — the same day the cold was expected to ease but begin to give way to a potentially huge snowstorm.

“It takes your breath away if you’re not ready for it,” said Dan Giroux, shop tech at Northern Outfitters snowmobile rentals in Greenville, Maine, where the fleet was mostly idle because it was too cold for most folks.

In New York, the city doubled the number of outreach vans it sends out looking for homeless people in such cold, checking on street people every two hours.

“Our priority is to make sure they’re safe and warm,” said Seth Diamond, commissioner of the New York City’s Department of Homeless Services.

In Providence, R.I., it dipped to minus 1 early Monday, the first below-zero reading there in six years, the National Weather Service said.

Even hat-shy teenagers were taking precautions.

“It’s hard to get teenagers to bundle up, but even they’re putting on their hats this morning,” said Tim Scott, director of development at Fryeburg Academy, in Fryeburg, Maine, where it hit minus 28.

In Lebanon, N.H., a homeowner thawing frozen pipes with a torch in the basement set an 11-unit apartment building on fire. It was minus 20 Monday morning when the torch set the fire, which spread quickly. No injuries were reported, but several pets were missing.

Skiers said “no thanks” at some resorts. At Maine’s Sugarloaf, where a ski lift recently failed in windy weather and sent some riders to the hospital, the combination of cold and wind caused operators to shut down lifts to the summit. Four lower lifts were still running, however.

“We have a few people skiing — not many,” said resort spokesman Ethan Austin. “There’s a few hardy folks who want to get their turns in, no matter what.”

Others took it in stride.

“It’s a winter day in Maine,” said Maude Gardner, of Allagash, in the northern part of the state, shrugging off a minus-24 reading Monday. After all, it was nothing compared to a minus-46 reading in January 2009.

Wind chill advisories and warnings were also issued in upstate New York, including the Adirondack mountains, where Saranac Lake posted a reading of minus 36 early Monday.


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