Governor Kathy Hochul today urged New Yorkers to prepare for dangerously cold temperatures and wind chills beginning Friday and continuing through Saturday. Most regions across the state, including Western and Central NY, Finger Lakes, Southern Tier, Mohawk Valley, North Country, Capital Region and Mid-Hudson, are expected to see temperatures as low as -15 degrees and wind chills as low as -25 to -50 degrees for a period lasting almost 48 hours. These extreme cold weather conditions bring an increased risk of hypothermia and frostbite, and fire and carbon monoxide poisoning from alternative heating sources, such as portable space heaters and fuel-burning appliances.
"New Yorkers across the state will experience dangerously cold temperatures and life-threatening wind chills this weekend," Governor Hochul said. "Now is the time to prepare: plan to limit your time outdoors this weekend and know where to take shelter. Take all necessary precautions to ensure your residence is safely heated and use caution if you plan to use an alternative heat source, such as a space heater."
Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Jackie Bray said, "Extremely cold temperatures will begin Thursday evening and last for about two days. Below zero temperatures and wind chills can pose a risk for frostbite on exposed skin in just 10 minutes, as well as hypothermia. Dress in layers and limit any time outdoors this weekend. Make sure your home and vehicles are ready for the cold weather and look after your vulnerable neighbors and loved ones while staying warm."
According to the National Weather Service (NWS), an arctic airmass is expected to move across the State beginning late Thursday through Saturday, potentially bringing the coldest wind chills in almost 30 years to locations, including the North Country. NWS predicts a nearly 48-hour period where wind chill temperatures will be below -15 degrees beginning late Friday night and continuing through Saturday. The coldest conditions are expected Friday night and early Saturday morning with wind chill temperatures dropping to as low as -50 degrees in some locations. Conditions should improve Sunday with temperatures warming to normal levels early next week.
Wind Chill Warnings, Watches and Advisories are in effect for regions across the state beginning late Thursday through Saturday. A quick burst of heavy and blowing snow is expected to create hazardous travel conditions Thursday evening in areas bordering Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.
For a complete list of weather watches, warnings, and advisories across New York, visit the National Weather Service website.
- To avoid frostbite, stay inside during severe cold.
- If you must go out, try to cover every part of your body: ears, nose, toes and fingers, etc. Mittens are better than gloves. Keep your skin dry and stay out of the wind when possible.
- Drink plenty of fluids since hydration increases the blood's volume, which helps prevent frostbite. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and cigarettes - caffeine constricts blood vessels and prevents warming of extremities, alcohol reduces shivering, which helps keep you warm, and cigarette use shuts off blood flow to your hands.
- If you suspect frostbite, until you can get indoors, don't rub or massage cold body parts. Drink warm liquids, put on extra layers of clothes and blankets, and remove rings, watches, and anything tight.
- Once indoors, don't walk on a frostbitten foot - you could cause more damage. Get in a warm (NOT hot) bath and wrap face and ears in a moist, warm (NOT hot) towel.
- Don't get near a hot stove or heater or use a heating pad, hot water bottle, or a hair dryer. You may burn yourself before feeling returns.
- Frostbitten skin will become red and swollen and feel like it's on fire. You may develop blisters. Don't break the blisters. It could cause scarring.
- If your skin turns blue or gray, is very swollen, blistered or feels hard and numb even under the surface, go to a hospital immediately.
- Hypothermia is caused by prolonged exposure to cold temperatures, especially in children and the elderly.
- Watch for the following symptoms: inability to concentrate, poor coordination, slurred speech, drowsiness, exhaustion, and/or uncontrollable shivering, following by a sudden lack of shivering.
- If a person's body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit, get emergency medical assistance immediately.
- Remove wet clothing, wrap the victim in warm blankets, and give warm, non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated liquids until help arrives.
Protecting Water Pipes
Prevent the mess and aggravation of frozen water pipes, protect your home, apartment, or business by following these steps:
- When it's cold, let cold and hot water trickle at night from a faucet on an outside wall. Open cabinet doors to allow more heat to get to un-insulated pipes under a sink or appliance near an outer wall. Make sure heat is left on and set no lower than 55 degrees.
- If you plan to be away, have someone check your house daily to make sure the heat is still on to prevent freezing, or drain and shut off the water system (except indoor sprinkler systems).
- If pipes freeze, make sure you and your family know how to shut off the water in case pipes burst. Stopping the water flow minimizes damage to your home.
- Never try to thaw a pipe with an open flame or torch.
- Always be careful of the potential for electric shock in and around standing water.
- Call a plumber and contact your insurance agent.
Be "Fire Safe"
Heating equipment is among the leading causes of home fires nationally and in New York State. Take a few simple steps to significantly reduce the possibility of experiencing a heating related fire. No matter how careful you are with home heating, you and your family should be prepared in case fire strikes:
- Buy and carefully maintain a quality smoke and carbon monoxide detector.
- Inspect your home to eliminate or control fire hazards.
- Install at least 5-pound A-B-C type fire extinguishers in the home and teach family members how to use them.
- Establish a well-planned escape route with the entire family.
- Hold practice fire drills until all family members are thoroughly familiar with plan.
- If you have an older home, have the wiring checked by a qualified electrician to make sure it meets current building codes.
- Have your chimney and fireplace cleaned and inspected yearly for creosote build-up, cracks, crumbling bricks or mortar and any obstructions.
- Keep storage areas clean and tidy.
- Keep curtains, towels and potholders away from hot surfaces.
- Store solvents and flammable cleaners away from heat sources. NEVER keep gasoline in the house.
- Inspect extension cords for frayed or exposed wires or loose plugs.
Maintain and Inspect Home Heating Appliances
Proper maintenance and an annual inspection of heat pumps, furnaces, space heaters, wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys, and chimney connections by qualified specialists can prevent fires and save lives. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for installation, venting, fueling, maintenance and repair. Review the owner's manual to make sure you remember the operating and safety features.
- Space Heaters - Keep space heaters at least 3 feet away from furniture, window treatments, bedding, clothing, rugs, and other combustibles. Avoid the use of extension cords with electric heaters. Always turn off space heaters before leaving the room or going to bed.
- Fuel Burning Appliances - Inspect the shut off mechanism and wick for proper operation. Fill the tank with fresh fuel. Let the heater cool down before refueling. Adding fuel to a hot heater can start a dangerous fire.
- Wood Burning Appliances and Fireplaces - Do not burn trash in the wood stove or fireplace. Burn only well-seasoned hardwoods. Be sure the fire you build fits your fireplace or stove, don't overload it. Be sure wood stoves are installed at least 36 inches away from the wall. Keep combustible materials well away from the fireplace, stove and chimney. Keep the area around them clean. Always use a fireplace screen to prevent sparks from leaving the fireplace and starting a fire. Never leave a fire unattended.
- Chimneys - Creosote accumulation is the leading cause of chimney fires. A chimney that is dirty, blocked or is in disrepair can inhibit proper venting of smoke up the flue and can also cause a chimney fire. Nearly all residential fires originating in the chimney are preventable. An annual chimney inspection by a qualified chimney sweep can prevent fire or carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Ashes - Keep wood stoves and fireplaces free of excess ash buildup. Excessive ash buildup prevents good circulation of air needed for combustion. When removing ashes, use a metal container with a tight-fitting cover. Always place ashes in an outside location away from structures. Ashes that seem cool may contain a smoldering charcoal that can start a fire.
- Carbon monoxide is produced anywhere that fuel is burned and is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in the United States.
- Carbon monoxide is an odorless, tasteless and invisible killer, and the ONLY safe way to detect it is with a carbon monoxide alarm.
- Carbon monoxide alarms range in price from $20 to $50 depending on additional features.
- Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include sleepiness, headaches and dizziness.
- If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, ventilate the area and get to a hospital.
Other Heating Safety Tips
- Make sure chimneys and vents are checked for blockages, corrosion, and loose connections.
- Open flues completely when fireplaces are in use.
- Use proper fuel in space heaters.
- Never burn charcoal or a barbecue grill inside a home or enclosed space.
- Never use portable fuel-burning camping equipment inside a home, garage, or vehicle
- Never leave a car running in an attached garage, even with the garage door open.
- Never operate unvented fuel-burning appliances in any room where people are sleeping.
- Never use the kitchen stove for heating a house.
- Never run a gas-powered generator in a garage, basement, or near any overhang on the home. Keep it at a distance.
The New York Office of State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation cautions patrons to check the status of the site they intend to visit and to dress accordingly for extreme conditions. In cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced, which can lead to serious health problems.
Whether hiking, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, cross country skiing or simply taking a walk, dress in layers to protect your body. Frostbite can be drastically reduced when wearing the proper outdoor apparel. OPRHP strongly cautions against wearing any cotton layer since it does not wick moisture created by perspiration and freezes once it is wet. We recommend polyester blends, silk, or other synthetic fabrics to wick moisture away from the skin. Fleece, wool or polyester are the best choices. Several thin, loose layers are better than one thick layer. Wear a hat. Mittens are better than gloves.
For snowmobilers, your outside shell should be windproof and waterproof. Acrylic or synthetic materials are the most popular fabrics. If you plan to travel near or on ice, get a suit that comes equipped with approved floatation. Wear approved helmets, facemasks, goggles, balaclavas and gloves.
For your feet, again, never wear cotton socks and bring an extra pair just in case. Good boots will keep your feet warm, comfortable and protected from water. The best material is a combination of a rubber, waterproof bottom with a good sole for traction and a nylon or synthetic upper high enough to repel snow. Choose boots that fit well and are comfortable for a long day. If they are too tight, it can cut off circulation and your feet will get cold. More information on safe snowmobile safety is available here.
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