People in the TIMES NEWS coverage area woke this morning to howling winds, sub-zero temperatures and wind chill factors of 20 to 30 degrees below zero.

Cars growled their protests at starting, windows were coated with ice, water pipes burst, and school superintendents decided hours earlier to cancel classes so that students would not have to risk frostbite as they waited for buses or walked to school.

In Andreas, the thermometer read zero degrees; in Summit Hill and Albrightsville, it was reported to be hovering at -7. Towamensing Township registered -4 degrees. Ryan Fannock, also known as the Tamaqua Area Weatherman, reported -2 degrees in his borough.

Susan Dengler reported -5 degrees near the Aquashicola Creek in Kunkletown, and Fran Boyle reported -5 degrees in Lansford.

As of 7:30 a.m., the National Weather Service reported the temperature in the Lehighton area to be zero degrees. Larissa Barachie reported -9 degrees on the east side of Jim Thorpe.

The polar vortex (strong, extremely cold arctic winds) that is sucking the warmth out of the air has even plunged sunny Florida into subfreezing temperatures. Debi Paisley of north central Florida reported a morning temperature of 25 degrees.

Temperatures are the coldest they've been since the 1990s in the Midwest and south, according to The Weather Channel.

Today's temperatures are expected to reach no higher than the single digits, and the wind will continue to bluster, making it feel even colder.

But after another night of temperatures hovering around 1 degree, temperatures will jump to about 21 degrees on Wednesday, with partial sunshine, according to the weather service.

The rest of the week looks positively balmy, with daytime temperatures ranging from 31 to 46 degrees through Saturday, and nighttime temperatures ranging from 16 to 31 degrees.

The record low temperature in Pennsylvania, -42 degrees, was set on Jan. 5, 1904 in Smethport, McKean County, according to the National Climatic Data Center.

The current cold snap prompted PJM Interconnection, which operates the electricity grid for more than 61 million people in 13 states and the District of Columbia, to ask the public to conserve electricity today in light of the frigid temperatures.

"Demand for electricity is expected to increase because of the extremely cold weather. PJM asks consumers to conserve electricity, if health permits especially from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 3 to 7 p.m.," the company said in a news release.

PJM advises people to set thermostats lower than usual, if health permits; to postpone using major electric appliances such as stoves, dishwashers and clothes dryers until mid-day or after 9 p.m., when the demand for electricity decreases; and to turn off electric lights and appliances that are not needed at the time or that are not being used.

"Conserving electricity on Tuesday will help ensure adequate power supplies. PJM continues to carefully monitor the power supply conditions. It will do everything possible to keep power flowing in the region. If necessary, PJM will take additional steps, such as reducing voltage," the company said.

As of 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, 558 PPL customers were out of power in Monroe County, mostly in Jackson Township, and 1,598 in Cumberland County, mostly in Dickinson Township.

The causes of the outages were not readily available as of early Tuesday.

Health professionals are warning people that the brutal wind chill can freeze exposed skin within minutes. If one must be outside, wear layers of clothing, and use hats, gloves and scarves. Some people, including road crews, must be outside regardless of the weather.

"On a day like today there is not much roadway maintenance work that can be done," said state Department of Transportation spokesman Ron Young. "Therefore some workers will be operating trucks and treating any icy areas, some may be moving around to clean debris from drainage inlets (with brief periods of being outside), and others will be inside working on equipment."

Young said that "private contractors working on state projects are responsible for the well being of their employees and must follow any OSHA regulations."

At least one person had something good to say.

Tom Merkel, of Merkel Farm & Nursery, Lehighton contacted the TIMES NEWS to say that the "arctic temperatures kill off pests and diseases that would otherwise survive outdoors, and in unheated sheds and buildings to plague our crops next year. Extreme cold is a great organic pest control."