Capital Region

Capital Region goes into deeper freeze

A high of 1 degree is expected
Bundled up to battle the extreme cold, two women wait for the bus at Park Avenue and Union Street in Schenectady.
Bundled up to battle the extreme cold, two women wait for the bus at Park Avenue and Union Street in Schenectady.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

The Capital Region, already shivering through an early winter cold wave, goes into a deeper freeze Saturday.

“We’re forecasting a high in Albany Saturday of 1 above zero,” said John Quinlan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany. “If for some reason we don’t make it to zero, the last time we had a high below zero was minus 2 on Jan. 4, 1981.”

The weekend cold will also come with severe wind chill and gusting winds.

“We’re talking about winds right on through the day Saturday gusting as high as 40 to 45 miles an hour and we’re talking about wind chill values that at times could get down to 30 and 40 below zero,” Quinlan said.

Serious cold moved in Wednesday, Dec. 27, the first of seven consecutive days of below zero temperatures. Quinlan said the streak continued through this past Tuesday. “The low on [Wednesday] Jan. 3 was 7,” he said. “On [Thursday] Jan. 4 it was 14.”

The low temperature for Friday was not available Friday evening.

[What to do this weekend, despite the weather]

People don’t have to know single digit descriptions when they experience the Arctic conditions. Sweaters and heavy coats, wool hats and leather gloves have been musts for the outdoors. Extra blankets on beds and extra wood in fireplaces have been smart additions for home and hearth.

According to weather service records, the recent seven-day cold wave of zero or less matches Albany area cold streaks recorded during the winters of 1918, 1970 and 1981. The record is 15 days, recorded from Jan. 20 through Feb. 3, 1961. In second place is the 10-day zero or less cold wave that chilled people from Feb. 9-18 in 1979.

A high temperature around 12 is expected for Sunday. Quinlan said snow will be in the air Monday.

“Right now it looks like light accumulation,” he said. “There could be one to three inches of snow, but there’s also a chance there could possibly be some mixed precipitation with that storm.”

Officials at National Grid are watching for power outages. Friday afternoon, an outage affected 500 customers in the Freemans Bridge Road section of Glenville. The loss of electricity forced the closure of the Glenville Senior Center.

Nate Stone, a National Grid spokesman, said the outage occurred shortly before 1 p.m. when a tree fell on a power line. All customers had power back by 2 p.m.

“We’re more concerned with wind,” Stone said of the recent weather. “Our system is designed to withstand the cold.

“We have extra crews on stand-by in case anything happens over the next day or two,” Stone added. “We keep an eye on the weather … the hope is we never have to use the extra people but if we have to, they’re there.”

Firefighters and advocates for senior citizens are also watching temperatures.

Dale Lingenfelter, chief of Niskayuna’s District 1 Fire Department, said people should remember to keep their homes and families safe during cold weather.

Among his recommendations:

  • “Be careful with any portable heating devices. Follow all the manufacturers’ instructions and don’t use extension cords on electric heaters. Make sure there is clearance around the heaters of any combustibles. Usually three feet is a good benchmark.”
  • “For extension cords, electric heaters tend to draw high levels of current. If you try to draw high current through a small cord, a smaller wire, it actually acts like a heating element in and of itself. That’s what we often see. They’ll use an undersized cord to plug into an electric heater …the cord will start to get a little hot over time and can become a source of ignition for fire.”
  • Lingenfelter also said if people light candles, they should consider the large jar-type candles. They have a strong base, he said, and the flame is located inside the glass.
  • People should never use gas grills inside their homes, never depend on ovens for heat and never try to thaw out frozen pipes with flame-based heating elements.
  • Lingenfelter also said people who use fireplaces must be careful with embers and ashes. Let fires burn down before retiring for the evening, then close fireplace openings with screens or glass doors.
  • Hot coals can still be in fireplace ashes, even many hours after a fire . Lingenfelter said people should shovel the ashes into a metal container and take them outside, then douse the ashes with water.

The Schenectady County Office of Emergency Management has offered other tips to beat the cold:

  • Stay indoors as much as possible.
  • If people must go outside, cover exposed skin and keep fingertips, earlobes and noses covered.
  • Wear a hat, hood or scarf, as most heat is lost through the head.
  • Shivering, a sign the body is losing heat, is a signal to return indoors.
  • Drinking alcohol may make people think they feel warmer, but alcohol actually increases chances of hypothermia and frostbite.

During frigid weather, people should also consider checking on elderly neighbors or relatives.

“Even if it’s by phone, to make sure everything is OK and their heat is working,” said Marlene Hildenbrandt, executive director of Catholic Charities & Caregiver Support Services in Schenectady.

The organization delivers about 400 “meals on wheels” daily, and about 150 during the weekends. If homebound seniors are not seen in person, Hildenbrandt said, delivery personnel will call the agency and representatives will call emergency contacts and relatives to make sure the person is OK.

Temperatures will be higher next week, at least for a little while.

“By Thursday it will be in the 40s,” Quinlan said. “It’s not going to last long though, it looks like right back into the 30s or even the 20s on Friday. It looks like a one-day warm-up.”


People who need emergency shelter or housing in the Schenectady and Saratoga Springs areas are asked to contact or go to:

  • Primary Code Blue shelter: Bethesda House, 834 State St., Schenectady, 518-374-7873.
  • Code Blue Shelter, Soul Saving Station Church, 62 Henry St., Saratoga Springs.
  • Schenectady City Mission, 425 Hamilton St., Schenectady

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