Parts of New York encased in snow and ice due to lake-effect snow, plunging temps

WATERTOWN, N.Y. — A large swath of northern New York is encased in ice and snow after days of lake-effect storms followed by an arctic cold front sending temperatures well below zero.

The National Weather Service said the temperature was minus 32 degrees at 6 a.m. Thursday in Watertown, near Lake Ontario’s eastern shore 65 miles (104 kilometers) north of Syracuse. Pre-dawn lows dipped to minus 18 along the St. Lawrence River on the Canadian border, where the wind chill made it feel like 34 below zero, meteorologists said.

In Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks, the low plunged to 21 below, with the wind chill making it feel like minus 40.

Other low temperatures across upstate New York ranged from 1 above in Buffalo to minus 4 in Albany. Forecasts call for the arctic conditions to continue through the long New Year’s weekend.

“It is the north country and unfortunately we look forward to it every year,” Brent Zimmerman told WWNY-TV in Watertown.

With the bitter cold comes more emergency calls from homeowners with frozen water pipes, along with the increased potential of fires started by supplemental heating appliances or people trying to thaw pipes with an open flame, fire officials said.

“Fighting fires in these frigid temperatures are problematic in itself because we simply just move slower in the cold weather,” city of Watertown Fire Chief Dale Herman told WWNY. “Taking a few minutes ahead of time may prevent those freeze-ups or the need for supplemental heat.”

Storms blowing off Lake Ontario’s eastern end have dumped 3 feet to more than 5 feet in some areas, mostly in a region north of Syracuse known as the Tug Hill Plateau.

A female resident of Lorraine, located at the eastern end of Lake Ontario on the Tug Hill Plateau, was rescued by firefighters when she became trapped in her home by a storm that dropped around six feet of snow. Rescue workers had to use a payloader to help clear the front of the home.

Oswego County is among the hardest hit areas. Three schools in the county were prevented from traveling to an annual Christmas week high school basketball tournament outside Watertown because many of the players had several feet of snow in their driveways, preventing them from getting to practice, organizers said.

“We’re not going to risk kids’ lives getting out of the houses and things like that,” said Brian Nortz, athletic coordinator at General Brown in Dexter, the host school.