Wind chill hits minus 79 atop Whiteface

Frostbite could set into exposed skin after 10 minutes

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 Friday — 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 Friday. 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 Friday.

The entire North Country is under a hazardous weather alert and wind chill warning due to bone-chilling cold, and today should be even colder than Friday. With the wind chill, it could feel as cold as minus 42 today and minus 41 tonight.

Without factoring in wind, the NWS predicted a high of minus 11 today and a low of minus 25 tonight in Saranac Lake. The village 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.

“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 cold will lose some of its bite Sunday, with a high of 11 in Saranac Lake, but wind chills are still predicted to be as low as minus 39 during the day. A warm-up is expected for Monday, though, with a high temperature of 31 degrees above zero.

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

Ski, school closures

Whiteface Mountain Ski Center in Wilmington did not open Friday 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, which runs the state-owned ski area. Lundin said the repairs should take about four hours; however, the mountain did not reopen Friday. Whiteface is expected to be back to its normal operations today, despite the arctic temperatures.

Cross-country ski areas are still open, with some limitations. Dewey Mountain Recreation Center in Saranac Lake is remaining 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 programs today — 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 Friday: Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Lake Placid, AuSable Valley, Long Lake and Keene.