Howling winds yesterday drove down temperatures and may be responsible for a three-hour-plus power outage last night.

Penn Power spokesman Bart Spagnola said about 100 customers experienced power failure last night after a tree came down onto wires along Mercer Road. Power was out for about three and a half hours, he said. For some, power was restored sooner.

High winds earlier this year might have contributed to last night’s system failure, Spagnola said.

“Winds like we had weaken the system and we might not know how much until something happens.”

Yesterday’s combination of high winds and low temperatures might have put an additional load on the system, he noted. Add the Christmas lights prevalent at this time of year, and “you have the opportunity for everything to give away under the strain.”

Meteorologist John Darnley of the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh said rising winds and falling temperatures converged on New Castle yesterday creating extreme cold conditions.

Lawrence County experienced winds up to 35 miles per hour yesterday, which made the single-digit temperatures feel even colder.

New Castle’s recorded low was 2 degrees at 5 a.m. today. The forecast is for a high of 17, and continued winds create a wind chill effect of 1 degree.

But things area getting better, according to Darnley. He predicts a high of 29 degrees tomorrow afternoon and 45 by Wednesday — resulting in conditions too warm for a white Christmas.

“Although Christmas Day will be 35 degrees, it will be cloudy, dreary and rainy, with possible flurries,” he said.

These conditions, Darnley said, are the result of a third storm system to pass through the area The next is expected on Dec. 28.

“These have been pumping moisture and cold into the area,” he said. The next series will bring cold. If you like that kind of weather will depend on if you like to ski or if you have to shovel the drive.”

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