Despite the cold, First Night show will go on

Commuters arrived at South Station in Boston as the temperature was only in single digits.
Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe
Commuters arrived at South Station in Boston as the temperature was only in single digits.

All First Night events in Boston, including the 7 p.m. and midnight fireworks, are still scheduled to go forward on New Year’s Eve, despite frigid temperatures that show no signs of abating, city officials said Friday.

“It’s too early to cancel them now,” Mayor Martin J. Walsh said of the festivities during an afternoon news conference at City Hall. “We’re going to play this thing by ear.”

He was joined by several other city officials, including police Commissioner William B. Evans, who said there are no credible terror threats to the annual rite.


Uniformed and undercover officers will be out in force in the city center, throughout the neighborhoods, and on subways to ensure the night is safe, according to Evans and MBTA Transit Police Chief Kenneth Green.

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In addition, Evans said, some officers will be posted on rooftops to look out for threats from an elevated position. That precaution is necessary, he said, in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting in October, when a gunman fired into a crowd from a hotel window, killing 59 people.

“That is a new reality, unfortunately,” Evans said.

Large trucks will also be placed across streets around Copley Square, the center of First Night activities, to block “any motorist who might try to cause some harm to a crowd,” Evans said, as drivers have done in cities such as New York, London, and Nice, France.

Boston Emergency Medical Services will also have extra staff and ambulances across the city in case of medical emergencies, EMS Chief James Hooley said.


“We haven’t had — knock on wood — any real tragedies associated with cold yet because people have been observant and vigilant,” Hooley said.

On Wednesday, EMS responded to nine calls related to the frigid weather, and by late morning Thursday, the department had answered four more calls connected to the cold, a spokeswoman said. So far, there are no reported deaths related to the week’s sub-freezing temperatures.

The officials urged revelers to take public transportation into Boston for Sunday’s celebration and said all MBTA subway trains would be free after 8 p.m. Public drinking and general rowdiness will not be tolerated, they said, and attendees should dress in layers to stay warm.

Walsh stressed that First Night is an event held entirely outdoors and people should seek shelter if they get too cold. He said the city is unable to provide warming tents, but businesses near Copley Square will be open for people to shop and warm up.

If the cold becomes too difficult to manage, Walsh said, “be smart and call it a night.”


The temperature should be about 5 degrees when the clock strikes midnight Sunday, cautioned Kim Buttrick, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

“That’s very cold to be out, even with no wind,” she said. “Dress appropriately: warm layers, warm boots, warm gloves, headgear.”

The cold front is putting a damper on the annual First Day Hikes on New Year’s Day, sponsored by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation. In a statement Friday, the state said hikes were canceled at Carson Beach in South Boston and the Nantasket Beach Reservation in Hull.

Additional events will go on as scheduled in Uxbridge, Concord, Saugus, Milton, and Turners Falls but will be “modified due to weather,” the release said.

Local temperatures will probably inch back up into the 20s Saturday, as light snow approaches Southern New England, but any snowfall should be over by Sunday, Buttrick said.

“It looks like it’s mainly going to impact the islands — Block Island, the Vineyard, Nantucket — our greatest confidence for 2 to 5 inches is for those islands, and lesser amounts further north than that, toward Boston,” she said.

The service issued a weather advisory in effect from noon Saturday to 1 a.m. Sunday, warning of snow on the islands.

“The snow could graze as far north as the Mass. Pike, which would include Boston,” Buttrick said, and in that stretch could leave “maybe a dusting to as much as 2 inches.”

On Friday, the temperature in Boston was 3 degrees above zero about 7 a.m. and hit 11 degrees by 2 p.m., with a wind chill of minus 2 degrees. In Worcester, the temperature at 8 a.m. was minus 2 degrees, but it had risen to 7 degrees by 2 p.m., with a wind chill of minus 9.

The bitter cold sent homeless people into a Worcester shelter operated by the South Middlesex Opportunity Council, packing it past capacity, and into a seasonal overflow shelter that its clients named Hotel Grace when it was opened last winter by a local faith-based group in cooperation with the city, according to Worcester Commissioner of Health & Human Services Mattie Castiel.

Hotel Grace is open to those who might turn down a traditional shelter because they would be separated from a partner or a pet, Castiel said, and the city’s quality of life task force works with local social service agencies to traverse the city looking for people who need a warm place to stay.

“Our goal is not to leave anybody outside,” Castiel said.

In Boston, many homeless people also sought refuge and kept shelters packed.

At St. Francis House, a downtown day shelter, the number of people warming themselves inside continued to be above the average Friday, and staff continued monitoring them for signs of health issues related to weather.

“Thank God . . . nobody has suffered, that we can see, frostbite or hypothermia,” said Maggie Burns, a spokeswoman for the shelter. “We continue to be vigilant in looking out for those signs, which is really critical.”

Burns said the cold had also brought out the generosity of its supporters.

“We have seen an increase in donations from the community as a result of the weather . . . which is fantastic because we need it,” she said. “We’re running out of resources.”

National Weather Service

The high in Boston on Thursday was 12 degrees, breaking a record for the coldest Dec. 28 recorded in the city. The previous record, set in 1924, was 18 degrees. Hartford also broke its 1924 record of 18 degrees, getting down to 11 degrees. Worcester and Providence set new records — 7 and 14, respectively — breaking their records set in 1976.

National Weather Service

Friday marks the fourth day of bitter cold in the region, with more on the horizon.

The sub-freezing temperatures are expected to continue to chill the region until at least the middle of next week, when high temperatures are expected to rise into the 20s, with a 30 percent chance of snow Wednesday night into Thursday morning.

Danny McDonald of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox. Travis Andersen can be reached at