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January 3, 2014

Severe winter storm blankets area

By Mark Boshnack Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — A winter storm that arrived in the area Wednesday is on track to bring about 12 inches of snow and extreme cold to some locations, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Binghamton said Thursday.

The agency issued a winter storm warning in effect until today at 10 a.m. About half of the expected snow had fallen late Thursday afternoon, meteorologist Mike Nadolski said. It was expected to continue until about 10 p.m. before tapering off and ending Friday morning.

As the snow ends, extremely cold air will move into the area, Nadolski said. Northwest winds of 14 to 17 miles per hour could bring wind chills as low as minus 22 degrees today. The high today is 2 degrees, and the low is minus 10. The next storm could arrive in the area Sunday night, Nadolski said, but it’s too early to say whether it will bring more precipitation.

Police said at 9 p.m. that towing was scheduled to begin after 10 p.m. Drivers should slow down and avoid unnecessary travel in such bad weather, said Lt. Douglas Brenner of the Oneonta Police Department.

Cold temperatures and snow statewide led Gov. Andrew Cuomo to declare a state of emergency Thursday. A travel advisory was issued for Otsego County, according to a release from the county sheriff also issued Thursday at 3:30 p.m. It means that while roads are not closed, driving conditions could be hazardous. Area emergency service dispatchers reported numerous minor traffic accidents, but no serious injuries.

City of Oneonta finance director Meg Hungerford said that with the start of a new budget year, finances were not an issue in making sure snow removal proceeded smoothly. The city recently replenished its road-salt supply so there was no problem in that area either, she said.

Although no power outages were expected, Delaware County emergency services director Steve Hood urged people who are using additional heat sources to follow manufacturers’ instructions to protect against fire and carbon-monoxide poisoning.

Otsego County Department of Health registered nurse Peggy Benjamin said people should keep track of weather reports and avoid unnecessary travel. Cold weather puts an extra strain on the heart, so people with heart disease or high blood pressure should check with their doctor before shoveling or other strenuous work, she said. Dressing in layers is an important part of staying warm, she said.

Hypothermia, when body temperature is 95 degrees or below, is an emergency condition that requires people to seek immediate medical care, she said. In adults, the symptoms include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, memory loss, slurred speech and drowsiness. In infants, the symptoms include bright red cold skin and low energy.

With extremely cold temperatures in the forecast today, area officials provided advice to keep people and animals safe. Cornell Cooperative Extension of Delaware County educator Paul Cerosaletti said this type of weather can dehydrate cattle. Farmers often increase the energy content of feed because their cattle burn more energy to keep their bodies warm, he said. They need to make sure water is not frozen and available, he said, to ensure their animals’ health.

Rain and wind affect the animals more than snow, he said, and if cattle are acclimated to the weather “they can tolerate these conditions better than you think.” Their skin provides good insulation, he said, but they need a place where they can get out of the elements and have good dry bedding, or even just a windbreak. It’s more critical for calves and young livestock, he said, because they don’t have the body mass of fully grown animal that is needed to create the heat.

For cats and dogs, Karen Crawford, manager at the Delaware Valley Humane Society in Sidney, said people should keep their pets inside during this weather if possible, and make sure they have plenty of food and water. If they have to be outside, make sure they have proper housing and dry bedding, she said, and water should be changed regularly to make sure it doesn’t freeze. But with frostbite a possibility, the best advice is to keep them inside, she said.