As unpredictable as upstate New York’s weather can be, there are still some advantages to living in this region. The hurricanes and tornadoes that are common to other parts of the country are relatively rare here, recent years notwithstanding. And while winter driving can be dangerous, we usually have little to fear from even the harshest winter storm.
Not so lately, as winter weather has proved deadly in a few different instances.
The “polar vortex” that brought extreme cold to the Midwest and East Coast has prompted concerns locally about dangers of exposure. The Oneonta City School District took the rare step on Monday of announcing ahead of time that school would be closed the following day, citing concerns about exposing students to dangerously cold winds. Numerous other local schools were also closed earlier this week when cold temperatures were at their worst.
With wind chill warnings in the -25 range — at which point frostbite can set in after only a few minutes — this was a prudent move. Besides protecting children from unnecessary risk, the decision possibly helped schools conserve some energy and save money on their heating bills.
Nationwide, at least 15 deaths have been reported in connection with the cold. Most have been automobile accidents, but the one death reported in New York state was not. Carol Magoffin, 71, who had Alzheimer’s disease, wandered from her home on Jan. 2 while her husband slept. She was found just 100 yards from the house.
By now, the mercury has climbed back up to more-temperate levels, but with the thaw, other dangers remain, as two recent incidents illustrate.
Marvin Taub of Oneonta fell through the ice on Pine Lake in the town of Davenport on Dec. 30 and drowned. Ira Landess and Nancy Klinger-Landess died after trying to rescue their dog, who fell through the ice on a pond behind their Harpersfield home, on Dec. 31.
At the time, warmer temperatures had weakened the ice on some ponds and lakes — a scenario that could repeat itself now. As area residents venture back out for ice fishing, snowmobiling and other winter pursuits, we urge all who do so to be cautious and safe when on the ice.
The Lifesaving Society, a Canadian organization, advises that snowmobilers wear life jackets when crossing frozen lakes; to never go out on the ice alone; and to avoid traveling on the ice at night. Gray, dark or slushy ice can be a sign of danger; hard, blue-colored ice usually indicates strong, thick ice. Carrying a pair of small, sharp tools such as picks can also save your life if you do fall in.
We encourage everyone to get out and enjoy the winter weather, but being aware of some of its hidden dangers can help keep you safe while you do so.