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Frozen February: Second coldest weather on record

YATES,SCHUYLER COUNTIES-If you love the ice and cold winter weather, you probably love this February. Within the first 19 days of February, the Finger Lakes region is currently experiencing the second coldest weather on record during this time frame. According to Climatologist Samantha Borisoff with the Northeast Regional Climate Center (NRCC, based in Ithaca), from Feb. 1 through 19, temperatures are running "about 12 to 15 degrees colder than normal." She added this applies to both Yates and Schuyler Counties.

"To give a bit more of a regional perspective, Feb. 1-19 is ranking second coldest in Ithaca (since 1893), second coldest in Geneva (since 1969) and second coldest in Canandaigua (since 1945)," Borisoff said.

Borisoff said the average temperature recorded at the Penn Yan Airport from Feb. 1 to 19 has been 13.2 degrees Fahrenheit. She said the normal average temperature for these dates is 25.8 degrees Fahrenheit.

In Schuyler County, Borisoff said the average temperature recorded in Mecklenburg from Feb. 1-19 has been 11.6 degrees Fahrenheit. She said the normal average temperature for these dates is 23.9 degrees Fahrenheit.

Borisoff said both the Yates and Schuyler County stations have too short of a record period to compare the average temperatures to previous years, but added having the second coldest winter temperatures in surrounding areas gives her findings more of a regional perspective.

With the cold weather also come several associated issues. Community Relations Manager with Finger Lakes Health Loree MacKerchar said the cold can cause problems for certain vulnerable people within the county.

"Traditionally, the most vulnerable population for extreme cold temperatures are the frail elderly, the very young and people with respiratory issues," MacKerchar said.

However, the cold can cause issues with more than just health throughout the winter.

Driving

This year's winter has been especially challenging for Yates County drivers, according to data provided by the American Automobile Association (AAA) of Western and Central New York. Public Affairs Manager for AAA of Western and Central New York Diana Dibble said AAA has responded to 200 total incidents from Jan. 1 to Wednesday, Feb. 18 in 2015, which is 156 percent higher than the 78 calls they received during this timeframe in 2014. While calls related to tires, batteries, fuel and lockouts remained somewhat consistent from year to year, the first month and a half of 2015 has led to 95 tow calls (up from 29 in 2014) and 65 winch calls (up from 17 in 2014).

Dibble said drivers and travelers can prepare for snowfall and deteriorating road conditions by following local driving bans whenever directed by local government. She said if someone has to leave their house during a storm, they should make sure they have a full tank of gas, food, drinks and blankets with them before traveling. Dibble also said those stranded in a car should keep their tailpipe clear of snow for proper ventilation with the window cracked if the engine is running. She said those in an emergency situation should always call 911.

Pets

Humans are not the only ones who have had to deal with the harsh winter conditions, as many area animals have been exposed to the same cold. While the cold can cause problems, the Humane Society of Yates County has attributed their new geothermal heating unit as a big factor in giving their animals a comfortable escape from the elements.

Shelter of Hope Manager Bonnie Brewer said it has been difficult to get some of the dogs outside in the cold weather, adding this has made it challenging to give the dogs the exercise they need. She said the temperature "gets brutal" once it falls below 20 degrees Farenheit into the teens, adding the strong winds at their location at 1216 Route 14A in Penn Yan only make the conditions feel worse. Brewer said unfortunately, the shelter is not able to hold more than 40 cats and 14 dogs, which means the animals they do not have space for must be wait listed, which can take one and a half to two months for dogs, and a slightly shorter wait for cats. She added they get an average of five calls a day about animals left out in the cold.

"We have to turn away an incredibly sad amount," Brewer said.

Brewer said dogs and cats can get frostbite just like humans can, adding if it is cold to a human, it is cold for pets as well.

"Just because they have fur doesn't mean they are immune to damages the weather can cause," Brewer said. "The best thing you can do is bring them inside."

With the cold temperatures winter brings comes a higher heating bill for people seeking to warm their houses. However, not all residents are able to come up with the extra cash a higher heating bill demands.

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is designed to provide aid to those living at or below a certain income threshold that determines if they are eligible to receive financial aid. LIHEAP is the main federal program that helps low-income households and seniors with their energy bills, providing assistance both to heat homes during the cold winter and cool homes during the hot summer months. According to the Schuyler County Department of Social Services, there are 754 households within the county that require heating assistance from the LIHEAP program, which provides for some 1,747 individuals throughout the county.







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