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Wind ushers in bone-jarring cold


Wind ushers in bone-jarring cold

The whole Northeast got smacked upside the head with numbing temperatures and wind chills Wednesday,
Wind ushers in bone-jarring cold
Union College student Chloe Bartlett, 19, makes her way across campus as the temperature drops Wednesday.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

Staying safe

The state Office of Emergency Management offers these safety tips in light of the cold weather:

&bull; Dress appropriately. Lots of layers, cover your head and face. Mittens are better than gloves.

&bull; Watch for hypothermia. Symptoms include inability to concentrate, poor coordination, slurred speech, drowsiness, exhaustion, and/or uncontrollable shivering, followed by a sudden lack of shivering.

&bull; Same for frostbite. Danger signs: Skin may feel numb and become flushed, then turn white or grayish-yellow; frostbitten skin feels cold to the touch. Never rub it.

&bull; Minimize outside activities. Same goes for pets.

&bull; Check on neighbors. This is especially true for those who are elderly, physically handicapped or infirm.

&bull; Prevent pipes from freezing by turning on both hot and cold water faucets slightly. Open cabinet doors.

&bull; Winterize your vehicle. Keep the gas tank at least half full, have blankets, extra clothing, flashlight, spare batteries, windshield scraper, shovel, towrope and jumper cables.

For a complete list of emergency safety tips visit www.dhses.ny.gov/oem/safety-info/publicsafety/winter.cfm.

The flags angrily snapping high above the Union College campus Wednesday afternoon could be heard more than 100 yards away, even above the biting wind whistling past buildings. Students, three days into a new trimester, trudged with heads down. A gaggle shrieked as they left Karp Hall and were greeted by a particular vicious Arctic blast.

Mollie Orr, a senior, shrugged off weather that met most definitions of brutal.

“It could be worse,” she said. “There could be more snow.”

The snow that was on the ground was fine, making for stinging projectiles that came in waves. Orr dismissed the missiles, the wind, the bitterness.

“I’m from Schenectady,” she said. “It’s something I’ve come to accept.”

The whole Northeast got smacked upside the head with numbing temperatures and wind chills Wednesday, with even nastier cold expected Thursday. Remember that relatively mild start to winter? Good times, good times.

“This,” said meteorologist John Quinlan of the National Weather Service in Albany, “is our reality wake-up call.”

Mike Smith of Glenville said he remembers a stretch a decade or so ago that was worse. Regardless, he is a pro. Bulk up in layers. Hand warmer in the right glove. Two pairs of socks. Hood. Smith is a postal carrier whose route has him outside walking more than six hours a day. He can handle this.

Smith checks the weather report each morning before work. He’s not only prepared, but experience has taught him the little things, like trying to stay out of the shadows.

“You have to keep moving — and stay in the sun,” he said. “The wind is our enemy, and the sun is our friend.”

That may get inverted in July, but the point is taken.

Rick Curtis of Glen, a Verizon installer and repairman, was grateful for his luck of the draw Wednesday: His calls had him mostly indoors. “Today is a very good day,” he said. “This is a day not to go up in the bucket.

“Tomorrow I’ll be working outside all day,” he said Wednesday afternoon. “You watch.”

That was the theme of many working outside Wednesday: Today is bad, but Thursday — whew.

“I’m a little worried. . . . Tomorrow will be a test,” said Jeff Martin of Schenectady, a parking attendant at the busy Schenectady YMCA lot. He was wearing four layers of clothes, but not gloves, which he says inhibits his ability to write. “I can handle the cold, but the wind will be tough.”

Wednesday was bad, but Thursday . . .

With temperatures this low, a Code Blue is in effect, meaning there is a priority to get homeless people off Capital Region streets and into shelters. Meanwhile, a fleet of tow trucks will likely have to be deployed to get vehicles back on the road.

AAA Northway covers a 10-county area stretching from Schenectady to the Canadian border. Public Affairs Manager Eric Stigberg said Wednesday was a relatively routine day, but it will be no surprise if the normal daily volume of 200 calls jumps to around 800 today.

“This is the calm before the storm. The extreme temperatures that are forecast will be the prompt,” he said. “We will be replacing batteries. And a lot of people are going to lock their keys in the car because they are trying to warm their vehicles up. It will be very busy in the morning and a repeat in the evening.”

Overnight temperatures were expected to plummet to minus 6, while the wind chill was expected to crater to 25 below zero in the Capital Region — and 40 below in the southern Adirondacks. The morning commute: beyond frigid.

“Around 8 a.m. [today] the wind chill should be between 15 and 20 below in the Capital District,” Quinlan said. “Outside areas will be even colder. In the Adirondacks it will be close to 40 below zero. Wind speeds will be generally 10 to 15 mph. The temperature will be right around 5 below zero.”

Then it warms up … sort of. Highs will hit the upper teens Thursday, with a wind chill in the lower single digits. The overnight low will be around 20, with a wind chill around minus 5 degrees.

Quinlan said the temperatures for Wednesday and today will not approach the cold records, both set in 1878 (12 below and 18 below; the record-low temperatures for the next five calendar days, all at least 18 below, were set in 1968).

He added there is no historical data on wind chill.

Friday is expected to be downright balmy, with a high in the mid-20s and a wind chill in the mid-teens.

But Quinlan adds there is a chance of 1 to 2 inches of snow overnight into Friday.

“It doesn’t end,” he said.

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