By Jonathan Allen
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Millions of people awoke to painfully cold weather in the eastern United States on Friday, with temperatures frigid enough in New York City to break a 65-year-old record low for Feb. 20.
New Yorkers hid much of their faces under hoods, hats and scarves but could not entirely hide their grimaces as they hurried down sidewalks to work. Parts of the city's East River had scabbed over with ice. Commuters' breath was visible on subway platforms deep below the ground and the wind.
At his small grocery store in Brooklyn's Fort Greene neighborhood, Mohammad Islam, 30, anticipated selling a lot of hot coffee as the temperature outside hovered around 4 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 15 degrees Celsius), beating the record low of 7 degrees set in 1950 according to National Weather Service records.
"I've never seen cold like this," he said, noting he had moved to New York from Bangladesh in 2003. "So much cold!"
In marched a customer wearing two woolly hats, two winter coats and many more layers besides, singing loudly.
"I love every kind of weather here, all I got to do is dress warm," Ludlow Chamberlain, a 76-year-old custodian at the concert hall across the street, said before counting his layers.
Friends in his native Jamaica often ask him at this time of year when he plans to move back to the Caribbean. Never, he tells them.
"You heard me coming in singing happy, right?" he said. "That means everything's all right with me. We don't get it 365 days a year so we shouldn't complain."
The National Weather Service said widespread subzero temperatures were recorded overnight on Thursday, from Illinois to western Virginia.
"Highs on Friday will struggle to get out of the teens from the Ohio Valley to the Mid-Atlantic region," the service said in its forecast.
In Philadelphia, the Roman Catholic archdiocese closed all the schools it runs in the city.
In the U.S. capital, Washington, D.C., the thermometer plunged to a record low, as well.
Forecasters and civic leaders warned people to avoid exposure to the cold. At least four people had died because of the cold weather in Kentucky, according to the state's emergency management office, although details of the deaths were vague.
(Additional reporting by Scott Malone, Editing by Lisa Lambert)