Wind chill hits minus 79 atop Whiteface

Cold closes schools, Whiteface skiing

Letter carrier David Lawrence is bundled up to prevent frostbite as he delivers mail on Broadway in downtown Saranac Lake Friday morning, when the temperature is 12 degrees below zero.
(Enterprise photo — Peter Crowley)

Letter carrier David Lawrence is bundled up to prevent frostbite as he delivers mail on Broadway in downtown Saranac Lake Friday morning, when the temperature is 12 degrees below zero. (Enterprise photo — Peter Crowley)

The summit of New York’s fifth-highest mountain hit an astounding low today — wind chills of nearly 80 degrees below zero, with the possibility of dropping even further.

Richard Brandt, science manager of the University of Albany’s Atmospheric Science Research Center on Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington, said the temperature at the summit was 26 degrees below zero Fahrenheit today. By 6:55 p.m., sustained winds had increased to 90 mph with gusts up to 102 mph.

That means it felt like 77 degrees below zero and 79 below in the gusts, according to the National Weather Service’s wind chill factor formula.

“It may go lower over the day and into the night,” Brandt wrote in an email.

The entire North Country is under a hazardous weather alert due to bone-chilling cold that could become even more extreme overnight.

A boy skis at Whiteface Mountain on Nov. 19, 2017, the ski center's opening weekend this season.
(Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

A boy skis at Whiteface Mountain on Nov. 19, 2017, the ski center's opening weekend this season. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

Without factoring in wind, the NWS is predicting a low temperature of minus 18 in Saranac Lake tonight, followed by an even colder Saturday, with a high of minus 11 and a low of minus 25 predicted. With the wind chill, it could feel as cold as minus 34 today and minus 42 tonight. Saranac Lake is situated at just over 1,500 feet above sea level while the summit of Whiteface is 4,865 feet.

The NWS says frostbite can take place in as little as 10 minutes in these weather conditions. It has issued a Wind Chill Warning.

“Frostbite can occur quickly and even hypothermia or death if precautions are not taken,” the NWS warning reads.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation warns backcountry adventurers to be careful of the low temperatures, saying in its weekly backcountry conditions report that “Temperatures and wind chills will be even lower [than the forecasted -45] on high mountain summits, surface of water bodies and other exposed areas.”

The forecast calls for a warm-up on Sunday, with a high of 11 in Saranac Lake, and highs of 31 Monday.

Ski, school closures

Whiteface Mountain Ski Center in Wilmington did not open today because of a power outage. The blackout was caused by heavy winds damaging power lines, according to Jon Lundin, communications manager for the Olympic Regional Development Authority that runs the state-owned ski area. Lundin said the repairs should take about four hours; however, the mountain will not reopen today. Whiteface is expected to be be back to its normal operations tomorrow Saturday, when temperatures are also predicted to be well below zero.

Cross-country ski areas are still open, with some limitations. Dewey Mountain Recreation Center in Saranac Lake will remain open in the daytime but not in the evening. The Mount Van Hoevenberg Cross Country and Biathlon Center outside Lake Placid is open, but all its Saturday programs, such as Wee-Ski, Pathfinder and the Citizen’s Challenge Race, have been canceled.

All the school districts in the Tri-Lakes area were closed today: Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Lake Placid, AuSable Valley, Long Lake and Keene.

Many businesses have either closed or will close early.

COMMENTS