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Arctic blast arrives in Massachusetts with wind chills below zero

A woman, dressed for cold temperatures, walked her dog in Boston's Seaport District.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

Bitter cold hit southern New England early Tuesday morning, where a blast of arctic air is driving temperatures towards single digits in the Boston area, but wind chills are making it feel even more frigid.

Anyone who steps outside before 5 a.m. will face glacial temperatures, according to the National Weather Service. It is expected to be the coldest day in the Boston area in nearly three years, since the high here reached just 10 degrees on Jan. 21, 2019, forecasters said.

“People heading into work … should get ready to feel temperatures at or below zero in the morning,” said Alan Dunham, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Norton.

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Hats, scarfs, and mittens are a must for anyone who has to leave home, he said.

“If you’re going to be outside, make sure you’re wearing layers of clothing, and you want to make sure you have your hands covered,” he said, adding that mittens are more effective than gloves in keeping hands and fingers warm. “Also make sure your mouth, nose, and especially your ears are covered.

The frigid weather complicated morning travel, as the arctic blast brought a few snow squalls which moved across the state Tuesday morning and coated some roads.

The deep freeze also led to a series of cancellations and closures, as officials opened warming centers and warned about the danger of exposure to the cold.

Boston Public Schools announced Monday that schools would be closed Tuesday to keep staff and students safe. Schools in Lowell, Worcester, and Springfield will also be closed, officials said.

Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority urged travelers to allow extra time in their commutes, as the agency continues to deal with ice left behind by last week’s storm that dumped more than a foot of snow in some areas.

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The MBTA’s warning comes as the agency is already struggling to keep buses running on time. The T cut its bus service on Dec. 19 because of a shortage of drivers.

“The MBTA will make every effort to operate subway trains and buses at or near regular weekday schedules, but some delays may occur,” the agency said in a statement.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said the city will have warming centers open to the public at all Boston Centers for Youth and Families community centers, which will be operating during their regular hours. A list of locations is available at boston.gov/bcyf.

“Our City is moving quickly to ensure that everyone — from our young students who would be waiting for a bus, to those experiencing homelessness — are protected from the cold,” Wu said in the statement. “I urge all Boston residents to do their part in looking out for each other and taking the necessary precautions for the frigid temperatures headed our way.”

People can also warm up inside Boston Public Library branches, which will be open during their regular hours, the city said.

The Southampton Street Shelter and the Woods Mullen Shelter will be open, and the Pine Street Inn’s mobile outreach vehicles will be out on the street, the city said.

The Boston Police Department will have officers looking out for people on the streets and will conduct wellness checks and assist with transportation to available shelters, the city’s statement said.

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The frigid air is also forcing some COVID-19 testing sites to close in Massachusetts cities, including Boston, Worcester, Everett, Revere, and New Bedford. The winter surge in COVID-19 cases has already led to hours-long waits outside testing sites across the state in recent weeks.

In Boston, DotHouse Health in Dorchester will close its COVID-19 testing center on Tuesday, the city said. The Anna Cole testing center in Jamaica Plain will remain open and has a heated tent, the city said.

UMass Memorial Medical Center’s testing center in Worcester also will be closed, with plans to resume on Wednesday, the city said in a post on Twitter.

In Revere, where Mayor Brian Arrigo issued a cold weather safety advisory on Monday, the testing center at Revere High school will be closed Tuesday, the city said in a Facebook post. Schools are expected to remain open, the city said.

The outdoor testing site at Rivergreen Park in Everett is closed and will reopen Wednesday at 7 a.m., Mayor Carlo DeMaria announced on Facebook.

Two testing sites in New Bedford are canceled Tuesday, the city said in a statement. Project Beacon, which coordinates testing at New Bedford Regional Airport, will hold additional testing hours Wednesday, but slots will likely be filled up quickly with appointments being rescheduled from Tuesday, officials said.

In New Hampshire, all four of the state’s outdoor testing sites in Nashua, Manchester, Newington, and Claremont closed Tuesday “out of an abundance of caution for the health and safety of staff and patients,” the state’s Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement.

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As residents hunker down for the bitter cold, state officials are urging people to be careful in how they heat their homes. Massachusetts State Fire Marshal Peter Ostroskey issued an advisory on Monday warning residents to make sure their smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are working.

“They should be installed on every floor of the residence and tested monthly to be sure they’re working properly,” Ostroskey said in a statement. “If an alarm is ‘chirping’ due to low batteries, replace the batteries right away — don’t disable the alarm. If the alarm is more than 10 years old, it’s time to replace it.”

The fire marshal’s advisory came just one day after a deadly fire sent black smoke through a New York high-rise building, killing 17 people including eight children. The blaze, the city’s deadliest in three decades, was reportedly sparked by a malfunctioning electric space heater.

There isn’t much reprieve from the cold to look forward to this week. Temperatures will remain around zero Wednesday morning and could sneak back up into the 30s later in the day, but the wind, again, will likely keep it feeling much colder, forecasters predict.

“If you’re looking for a big warm-up, we don’t see one of those coming,” Dunham said.

Taylor Dolven, James Vaznis, and Christina Prignano of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Material from the Associated Press was used.

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Nick Stoico can be reached at nick.stoico@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @NickStoico.