Schools were closed, a water main broke in the city and Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan declared an inclement weather policy for county employees on Tuesday.
The Arctic blast, which came south from Canada and brought subzero temperatures and wind chill experienced earlier in the week, is expected to pass by today and into tonight with a high temperature of 14 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.
Temperatures will rise throughout the rest of the week, with a high of 48 degrees expected for Saturday and rain likely at night.
“We’re going to go through this thaw but there are signs of cold air building again,” said Jon Hitchcock, National Weather Service meteorologist. “Perhaps towards the latter part of the month it could get colder.”
The upcoming thaw could potentially increase the risk of flooding.
“Snow will melt over the weekend and we’ll get some rain as well,” Hitchcock said.
Such a sudden shift wreaks havoc on roads, causing potholes when moisture seeps into the pavement, freezes and expands.
This up and down pattern of weather has been active, Hitchcock added.
“Fairly strong low pressure systems bring warmer air in and then colder air,” he said. “Instead of weaker lows, it brings stronger, colder air.”
At least half of the country experienced the freezing weather as it traveled from the northern planes through the Great Lakes and the Ohio River Valley.
“It’s been this cold and even much colder before,” Hitchcock said.
The Blizzard of 1977 lasted five days with high winds, low visibility and dangerously cold wind chills of -60 to -70 during the worst day of the storm, according to the National Weather Service.
If and when cold weather returns, Hitchcock said to be prepared with plenty of warm clothing. Hypothermia can occur on exposed skin within 10 minutes.
“There’s still lots of winter to get through,” he said.
Horrigan also encouraged residents to stay safe.
“I ask that you monitor the weather and follow any instructions issued by emergency officials,” said the county executive.