Warmer weather snaps back after weekend plunge

DEC, local ski centers report little traffic, no rescues

A ski patrol staff member with the state Olympic Regional Development Authority is seen here at Little Whiteface this past weekend. The summit of Whiteface Mountain was closed this past Friday and Saturday as temperatures reached a record low of -40 degrees Fahrenheit on Saturday morning. (Photo provided — ORDA)

The Tri-Lakes are thawing out with above-freezing temperatures this week after this past weekend brought record-breaking low temperatures and bitter wind chills to the area, according to the National Weather Service.

The NWS, based in Burlington, Vermont, issued a wind chill advisory this past Wednesday, warning of increased frostbite, temperatures as low as 25 below zero degrees Fahrenheit and wind chills as low as 30 to 45 below zero degrees from 1 a.m. Friday through 1 p.m. Saturday. The reality was even colder, according to the NWS — temperatures in the Tri-Lakes plummeted to -31 degrees early Saturday, with wind chills reaching as low as -46 degrees.

This weekend’s dangerously low temperatures led organizers of the Empire State Winter Games to cancel most outdoor events that were originally scheduled for Friday and Saturday, including the Alpine Skiing Super G race at the Whiteface Mountain Ski Center in Wilmington, where icy weather on the summit shattered previous records this weekend. Air temperatures on the summit dipped to -40 degrees on Saturday, and 60 mph winds created wind chills as low as -91 degrees, according to the University at Albany’s Atmospheric Sciences Research Center. The previous record low at Whiteface’s summit, set in 2016, was -38.9 degrees, according to the ASRC. Darcy Norfolk, the director of communications for the state Olympic Regional Development Authority, said the summit of Whiteface was closed on Friday and Saturday due to the extreme weather conditions.

On Sunday, temperatures climbed back up to around 36 degrees — a more than 65-degree hike in little more than a 24-hour period. And there’s more warm weather predicted as the week wears on, according to the NSW. Temperatures are expected to climb each day of the week — topping out at almost 40 degrees on Thursday — before dipping back into the 20s starting on Saturday.

All quiet in the backcountry

It looks like most winter recreationists heeded the National Weather Service’s wind chill advisory and notices from the state Department of Environmental Conservation urging recreationists to stay out of the backcountry during the deep freeze. Jeff Wernick, a spokesperson for the DEC, said on Monday that forest rangers weren’t called for any wilderness rescues during the “bitter cold” this weekend.

Ben Brosseau, the director of communications for the Adirondack Mountain Club — or ADK, which operates the Adirondak Loj property at Heart Lake outside Lake Placid and the Cascade Welcome Center on state Route 73 — said Friday and early Saturday were quiet at the Heart Lake Program Center, which is popular for hikers looking to access the High Peaks.

“We saw a few visitors with plans to attempt high peaks, but overall people stayed out of the backcountry,” Brosseau said. “… The temperatures definitely impacted visitation.”

Power outages and heating help

The frigid weekend temperatures also caused freezing pipes and power outages and left some people in need of home heating assistance to stay warm, but the electric department in Lake Placid and elected officials in surrounding areas didn’t report many problems related to the cold.

Lake Placid Central School District Superintendent Timothy Seymour said LPCSD put out an “all call” before the cold weather set in, asking families to contact the school if they were concerned about their heating systems. The school — as part of its Community Schools program that launched this past summer — was able to provide heating assistance for at least three families.

On Saturday morning, when temperatures were at their lowest, the Lake Placid Volunteer Fire Department responded to a water break at the Whiteface Lodge in Lake Placid, which caused water damage from the third floor to the basement. Firefighters said the lodge was able to open on Sunday.

Also on Saturday morning, the town of Wilmington and the town of Keene experienced brief power outages. Town Supervisor Roy Holzer said he was immediately in contact with a representative for New York State Electric and Gas — which provides power for Wilmington residents — about the outages. Holzer said the outages were addressed so quickly that he didn’t hear from any residents who needed heating assistance or whose pipes had frozen.

Keene town Supervisor Joe Pete Wilson Jr. said there might have been a few individuals with frozen pipes around town, but overall, he said the town runs around 10 degrees warmer than in areas like Lake Placid — he observed a Saturday low closer to -25 degrees.

“On a town-wide scale, we didn’t really experience any significant problems,” he said.


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