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With blast of Arctic cold, Philly sets 3 low-temperature records

The low temperature broke a record set 23 years ago.

Tam Huynh bundles up against the cold at 18th and Market Streets in Philadelphia on Wednesday as the temperature broke a 23-year-old record for cold for the date.
Tam Huynh bundles up against the cold at 18th and Market Streets in Philadelphia on Wednesday as the temperature broke a 23-year-old record for cold for the date.Read moreJESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer

On a day that felt like it had wandered out of January, Philadelphia officially set a hat trick of low-temperature records on Wednesday.

The morning low, 23 degrees at Philadelphia International Airport, broke the record set in 1996. The daily average temperature, 29, was the lowest for a Nov. 13 since the government began keeping score in the 1870s. And the daily high of 35 was tied for the lowest maximum temperature.

Records also fell in Atlantic City, Reading, and Allentown, and from Detroit to Indianapolis to New York City in an Arctic outbreak that the National Weather Service likened to the record-setting cold that followed a “blue norther” cold front in 1911, which flash-froze the Midwest, South, and East.

In fact, Philadelphia on Wednesday felt very much like Nov. 13, 1911, the previous record-holder for lowest average temperature (30.5 degrees) and lowest daytime high for the date.

Early-morning wind chills Wednesday ranged between 10 and 15 degrees, and a brisk northwest breeze kept a bite in the air all day.

The fallout was evident to the folks at Mid-Atlantic AAA, which fielded 1,464 calls, 35% for dead batteries, said spokesperson Jana Tidwell. She said that was an extraordinarily high number for a mid-November day.

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Another possible impact of the cold emerged after the morning rush hour. SEPTA reported that service on the West Trenton Regional Rail line had been suspended between Woodbourne and West Trenton due to power problems. Extreme cold can affect overhead power lines.

But SEPTA spokesperson John Golden said that most of the problems were equipment-related and not necessarily due to the weather.

Even colder temperatures were recorded outside the city, including an 18-degree reading in Pottstown, Montgomery County.

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The weather service also reported that late Tuesday, Philadelphia tied the record low for Nov. 12 of 26 degrees, set in 1976. That would be 14 degrees below normal.

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The normal high for a Nov. 13 is 57.

The bitter cold won’t last too long. After temperatures fall into the 20s Wednesday night, a slight warm-up will begin with highs around 47 expected Thursday and 51 Friday under mostly sunny skies.

Another cold front is expected to arrive later Friday, bringing overnight temperatures in the 20s and a high of about 39 Saturday.

Atlantic City and Wilmington tied records for snow for a Nov. 12. Each official measuring site recorded a “trace.” Philly also had a “trace,” but didn’t measure up to the record, 0.4 inches.

No snow threats are on the horizon.