Tools Of The Trade

Cold, Snow To Move Into Area After Warm Start To Season

Much of Western New York is under a winter storm warning from Thursday evening to Friday afternoon. Between 8 and 18 inches of snow could fall in some spots. P-J file photo

An unusually warm November has pushed Mother Nature’s cold reckoning back until today.

The National Weather Service in Buffalo on Tuesday issued a Lake Effect Snow Warning from 7 p.m. today until 7 a.m. on Friday, predicting between 10 to 18 inches of snowfall in some areas. The warning is for Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Wyoming and southern Erie counties.

The most accumulation is expected to hit western portions of Wyoming County and northern portions of Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties, the National Weather Service reported.

Meteorologist Jim Mitchell estimated the entire Southern Tier is behind on snowfall averages due to warmer temperatures thus far this season.

“November was very warm, so that wouldn’t lend much snow and we had pretty good dry stretches there as well,” Mitchell said. “I would say overall, without putting numbers on it, we’re all below average for first snowfall.”

Plows used to clear Jamestown sidewalks are pictured at the city’s Steele Street garage. Equipment has been readied for upcoming snow, which the region hasn’t seen much of so far this year. P-J photo by Eric Tichy P-J photo by Eric Tichy

Mitchell said lake effect snow typically is harder to predict and measure in localized areas. He said in contrast with a nor’easter storm rising up the east coast where every state can be impacted the same, towns and villages see varied results when it comes to lake effect snow.

“You could have one town that got hammered (by snow) one time and then 10 miles down the road (a town) didn’t get anything,” Mitchell said. “It’s very subjective when you look at it.”

Mitchell said an incoming cold front caused the Lake Effect Snow Warning to be updated. “The strong cold front that we’re expecting to come through is right on our doorstep now,” he said.

The rate of snowfall per hour didn’t necessarily alarm Mitchell with it being around a half an inch to an inch of snow per hour. He said when the rate reaches two inches per hour is when situations become more dangerous.

“One thing to note is it doesn’t look like it’s going to be crippling,” Mitchell said.

Chains that will be used on the tires of city vehicles during the winter this year. A Lake Effect Snow Warning has been issued from this evening to Friday morning. P-J photo by Eric Tichy

Locally, Jamestown crews have been preparing for the winter season.

“The troops have informed me we are ready as much as human beings can be ready for whatever Mother Nature throws at us,” said Sam Teresi, Jamestown mayor. “Anytime Mother Nature wants to beat human beings, she can and will do so. Our team has a lot of experience with this. We are aware of the weather forecast and preparing accordingly for it.”

Teresi said city Public Works Department employees have continued to work through the snowless days during November and the first few days of December by preparing for the cold.

“We have taken full advantage of the welcome reprieve Mother Nature has given us by doing extra leaf pickup and making preparations for the long winter season,” he said. “We’ve put that time to good use, which means there will be less cleanup in the spring time than what we are normally confronted with.”

Teresi said despite the forecast for the first winter storm to hit the area, he will continue to be optimistic about the weather for the coming days.

“We are ready for it and hopeful it comes in a way we can stay on top of it, or it can bypass us and it doesn’t have to come at all.”

Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan urged area motorists to use extra precaution when traveling during heavy snowfall.

Horrigan said many crashes could be avoided when driving on snow-covered roads by staying vigilant.

“Every year it seems like someone in a hurry is caught in a tragic accident,” Horrigan said. “I urge all drivers to please use caution during winter conditions and to leave early to provide extra time to get to their final destination.”

Furthermore, Sheriff Joe Gerace said speed plays a large role in the number of crashes during the winter. He, too, asked drivers to stay vigilant.

“A large percentage of winter driving accidents are related to vehicles traveling at speeds not reasonable for road conditions,” said Chautauqua County Sheriff Joseph Gerace. “We must give ourselves more time to reach our destination and slow down to avoid accidents. Our first accumulation of snow always results in a rash of traffic accidents.”

County officials asked motorists to update the emergency kit in their vehicles so it includes a shovel, snow brush, windshield scraper, reflective vest, flashlight, battery powered radio, extra batteries, cell phone charger or battery pack, water, snack food, matches, first aid kit with pocket knife, necessary medications, blankets, tow chain or rope, road salt and sand, booster cables, emergency flares, florescent distress flag, and extra hats, socks and mittens.

The Chautauqua County Department of Public Facilities Division of Transportation will also be out plowing and salting county owned roads.

“While county plow operators are attempting to make our roadways safe, I encourage drivers to please not add to the hazards of wintertime driving,” said George Spanos, director of the Department of Public Facilities. “Drivers should always use extra caution near snowplows by reducing their speed and keeping a safe distance.”

State law says drivers are required to stay at least 200 feet behind a snowplow. If drivers must pass a snowplow, they should use caution as snowplows can create a cloud of snow that can obscure vision and the road conditions in front of the plow will likely be worse.

Significant snowfall and the potential for blowing and drifting snow can also increase the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is a gas that is referred to as the silent killer because it is colorless, odorless, tasteless and non-irritating.

If snow blocks furnace or hot water tank vents, it can cause carbon monoxide to accumulate indoors. At high levels, this gas can cause suffocation, loss of consciousness, brain damage or death.

“It is important that individuals protect themselves and their families from carbon monoxide poisoning by installing carbon monoxide detectors in their homes and by making sure furnace and hot water tank vents are not blocked by snow,” said John Griffith, Chautauqua County Office of Emergency Services director. “It is best to keep a three-foot area clear by the vent and intake tubes.”