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Bitter cold tests New Englanders

Train equipment froze, cars sputtered, schools canceled classes, and cold-weather enthusiasts opted to stay inside Monday as a blast of below-zero temperatures gripped the Northeast.

The gasp-inducing cold -- temperatures reached into the minus-30s with wind chill factors even colder -- tested the mettle even of New Englanders.

"Snot-freezing cold," was how Kelly Walsh, 28, described it, walking home from an auto parts store in Vermont's capital after buying a new battery for her car, which wouldn't start Monday morning. It was minus 21 there at 7 a.m.

"I usually really like it," she said. "Today is a bit of nuisance."

Schools in western and northeastern Pennsylvania, across upstate New York and in parts of Vermont and New Hampshire closed their doors or delayed openings.

Amtrak suspended service between Albany and New York City, saying the extreme cold affected signals and switches. It hoped to resume service today.

In New York, the city doubled the number of outreach vans it sends out looking for homeless people in such cold, checking on street people every two hours.

In Providence, R.I., it dipped to minus 1 early Monday, the first below-zero reading there in six years, the National Weather Service said.

In Lebanon, N.H., a homeowner thawing frozen pipes with a torch in the basement set an 11-unit apartment building on fire. It was minus 20 Monday morning when the torch set the fire, which spread quickly. No injuries were reported, but several pets were missing.

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