Weather forecasters are sure of only two things going into this weekend:
• It’s going to snow. At least a little bit. Maybe a whole lot. The National Weather Service issued a watch this morning for most of upstate New York warning about 12 to 20 inches — on top of 2 inches tonight. The Weather Channel suggests 12 to 18 inches. Maybe 24. AccuWeather anticipates 4 to 8 inches.
• It’s going to get cold. Really cold. Frostbite cold.
The problem is that the models the National Weather Services uses to predict the weather are all over the spectrum on a storm sweeping in from the Midwest, forecasters say.
In Cortland, snow is expected in the afternoon on Saturday and through Sunday. “With the heaviest snow Saturday night into Sunday,” said Mitchell Gaines, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Binghamton.
Temperatures for Saturday are expected to top out at 17 degrees. Sunday lower, around 14 degrees and lows well below zero Sunday night. Gaines said blowing snow will be an additional burden.
• Pick the right shovel — A shovel with a curved handle or an adjustable handle length will minimize bending. A lightweight, plastic blade helps reduce the weight being moved.
• Warm up — Cold, tight muscles are more prone to injury than warmed up, flexible muscles.
• Use ergonomic lifting techniques — Whenever possible, push the snow to one side rather than lifting it.
• Pace yourself — Shoveling small amounts of snow frequently is less strenuous than shoveling a large pile at once.
• Keep your feet on the ground — Shoes or boots with good treads will help minimize slipping, and injuries.
However, the amount of snow expected to fall is still pretty much a guess. Gaines said the weather service uses different computer models to calculate a forecasted amount.
Updates every 12 hours and varying calculation have affected predictions. He expects a more accurate projection late today or Friday.
With the threat of snow in the forecast, William Knickerbocker, director of Cortland Code Enforcement, asks people to keep up with clearing snow at intersections and along sidewalks. “We’re trying to get folks out there,” he said Tuesday. Start as early as you can, he said, especially following the overnight Saturday into Sunday.
Other than keeping things clear, it also makes access to areas easier for emergency responders if needed, Knickerbocker said.
Yet there are more concerns than just snow. Temperatures are expected to drop during the overnight Sunday, as low as 6 below.
But it gets worse.
Wind gusts between 20 mph and 30 mph are expected. “Definitely look out for frostbite and hypothermia,” Gaines said.
With temperatures around 0 degrees coupled with 35 mph wind gusts, wind chill would be closer to -26 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. At 7 below, the windchill could drop to -37.
At conditions that cold, frostbite could set in within 15 minutes.
The National Safety Council recommends people take a few steps before going outside into the winter cold:
• Check the temperature and limit time outdoors.
• Bundle up in several layers of loose clothing.
• Wear mittens rather than gloves.
• Cover ears with a warm hat.
• Wear socks that will keep feet warm and dry.