MAYVILLE – Mother Nature has roared into Chautauqua County, bringing with her snow and bitter-cold temperatures.
A lake effect snow warning remains in effect for the county, with the potential for 5 to 9 inches of snow accumulation. That’s on top of nearly one foot of snow that was projected to hit much of the Southern Tier on Monday.
A wind chill advisory also was issued for the region, with 15 to 25 mph winds producing a wind chill up to 25 degrees below zero. The advisory was expected to be lifted this morning, but temperatures are expected to hover around the single digits for much of the day.
Police, meanwhile, responded to numerous accidents on Monday, including a car into a ditch in the town of Chautauqua and a rollover accident in the town of Sheridan.
An accident also tied up traffic on Interstate 86 in the town of Mina between the Findley Lake and Sherman exits – the same area of a fatal crash last week involving a box truck and a tractor trailer.
“We had numerous calls today and have investigated 25 accidents since 1 p.m., which doesn’t even include the accidents that were handled by Jamestown or other agencies,” said Sheriff Joe Gerace Monday evening. “It’s been a very busy day for us, and there have been a lot of cars off the road. Most of what we’ve seen appears to be property damage accidents, but it’s very common for us to have a rash of crashes when we go from dry roads to winter driving conditions. Once we have consistent snow, people make adjustments, but when it’s on and off we see this increase.”
The Southern Tier Expressway has become a hotbed for mishaps during inclement weather.
“Every time the weather swings and we get a thaw we get these issues, especially on Interstate 86,” Gerace said last week. “… The best thing to do is simply drive carefully.”
The I-90 heading westbound from Dunkirk was closed to traffic around 9:30 p.m. due to inclement conditions.
For area towing companies, significant snowfall and ice usually means more roadside service calls. Although high temperatures last winter produced little in the way of accumulation, a mixture of rain and snow has led to hazardous driving conditions this season.
“People just need to slow down. That’s really all there is to it,” said Scott Seekins, owner of Williams Garage and Wrecker Services in Lakewood.
Seekins, who responds to numerous calls a day, said ice in particular can wreak havoc this time of the year, regardless of tires used on a vehicle. “It doesn’t matter what you use, nothing is going to beat ice,” he said.
Jeff Butera, owner of Butera’s Towing in Jamestown, said his staff of five is handling more than 50 calls a day. Many of those requests are for roadside service, he said.
As for family pets during bouts of harsh weather, the American Humane Society is recommending that animals be kept indoors, especially those not used to winter conditions. The group noted cats – who can be prone to frostbite – should be kept indoors; dogs should be let outside for short periods of time.
The Human Society also recommends wiping paws of animals when brought indoors and keeping food and water in a safe location for any animal kept outside.
Nation Fuel on Monday warned of carbon monoxide poisoning as more residents look to keep warm. The colorless and odorless gas is produced when fuel is burned without enough air for complete combustion. If inhaled in large quantities, carbon monoxide can can lead to brain damage or death.
County officials, too, are warning about the dangers of the gas. “Carbon monoxide certainly can be dangerous. There is no doubt about it,” said Julius Leone, Chautauqua County fire coordinator.
He added: “You want to make sure your heating equipment is up to speed. And have a detector in your home. Unfortunately there has been loss of life that probably could have been avoided by installing a detector.”
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, National Fuel said in a news release, include: fatigue, coughing, headache, irregular breathing, dizziness, nausea, and cherry-red lips or ears.
Ryan Atkins contributed to this story.