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Bitter cold continues with winter storm on the way

A couple in Marshfield walked the shore at sunrise Saturday, despite the coldest temperatures of the season.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

A coastal storm that could bring half a foot of snow in Boston is expected to arrive on the heels of a bitterly cold weekend.

A winter storm watch goes into effect Monday morning into Tuesday afternoon with the National Weather Service warning that snowfall could be heavy in places with winds up to 35 miles per hour.

The amount of snow accumulation Boston might get was unclear Saturday because the city appears to be at the edge of the rain-snow line but it could be 4 to 6 inches, according to weather service meteorologist Rob Megnia. Worcester, Fitchburg, and Lawrence could get up to a foot.

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The bulk of snow is expected to fall in Boston late Monday afternoon and continue into Tuesday morning, according to the weather service.

“With the evening commute, conditions could get pretty poor,” Megnia said in a brief phone interview.

Still, the expected high of 35 degrees Monday would be a slight a warmup from the weekend, which began with a low of 8 degrees in Boston Saturday and reached only 20 degrees in the afternoon, according to the weather service.

The city declared a “weather emergency” Friday and had 13 warming centers open across the city from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m., although the one in Mattapan was forced to close after it lost heat in the afternoon.

Winds over 10 miles per hour during the day made conditions more dangerous and brought windchill, a metric that combines temperature with the effects of wind on the body, to near zero degrees.

“With this weekend’s bitterly cold weather, it is essential that we support and look out for each other,” Mayor Martin J. Walsh said on Twitter, urging constituents to call 911 if they see anyone in distress amid the bitter cold.

The coldest temperatures were recorded in the western part of the state, with a minus 3 degree reading in Westfield Saturday morning, said weather service meteorologist Kristie Smith.

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While Boston was about 15 degrees below the average temperature for this day of the year, it did not challenge a previous record of minus 5 set in 1873.

Sunday will offer little respite from the cold, according to the weather service.

After reaching a low of about 5 degrees just before sunrise Sunday, the high is expected to exceed Saturday’s by only a few degrees, peaking in the 20s in the afternoon, forecasters said. Windchills could again be as low as zero.

Those who provide services to people experiencing homelessness are on “high alert” during this cold spell, as people on the streets are at risk for frostbite and hypothermia, according to the Pine Street Inn.

“This could be deadly cold,” said spokeswoman Barbara Trevisan in a brief phone interview.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are likely choosing the streets over indoor shelters like Pine Street, she said.

“Clearly if someone is out over extended period of time any uncovered hands —even their face — or don’t have proper footwear … it doesn’t take very long for someone to have a very bad situation.”

Overnight, the cold posed a challenge for Boston firefighters, who scrambled to find working hydrants after several near the scene of a Dorchester house fire were found to be frozen.

Firefighters were also forced to work around frozen hydrants during another Dorchester blaze Saturday afternoon.

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The weather service also warned the general public of the risks of cold.

Based on conditions at about 12:30 p.m. in Boston, the initial effects of frostbite could set in after about 30 minutes outside, Smith said.

“I’m not encouraging anybody to go outside without mittens or hat tonight; that’s for sure,” she said.

The cold spells trouble for households already struggling financially, according to Action for Boston Community Development, a non-profit which offers home heating assistance in the Boston area.

“People’s lives are at stake here — they are battling frigid temperatures,” said chief executive John J. Drew, who has called for Congress to allocate more in fuel assistance.

“Our seniors have to be careful of hypothermia. Children are attending school remotely — parents need to be able to turn up the thermostat so they can learn,” he said in a statement.

Through the organization’s program, households struggling to pay oil, gas, or electric heating bills can receive up to $875 in assistance.


Lucas Phillips can be reached at lucas.phillips@globe.com.