Technically called bombogenesis, this storm is a raging blizzard with hurricane-force winds

Hold your hat. It’s really cold.

But nobody needs to be told that. With this first big storm of the season whipping snow and bone-chilling temperatures across the East Coast, airlines have canceled flights, health departments have issued warnings and utility companies have assured customers they’re on high alert for possible power outages. On Thursday, area school district officials began early to contemplate closings — some of which included cancellations of Thursday evening activities — and AAA warned: “Hazardous storms and inclement weather are a factor in more than half a million crashes and more than 2,000 road deaths every winter.”

Don’t go outside or on the roads unless you absolutely have to, officials warn. Friday’s weather forecast calls for additional snow accumulations likely and bitter cold, with the wind chill at minus-20 to minus-30 degrees.

You may have seen that this big bad storm is being called “bomb cyclone.” Taken from the technical term "bombogenesis," it’s what happens when a weather system undergoes a rapid drop in atmospheric pressure and quickly intensifies. Think a blizzard combined with hurricane-force winds.

For our region, the main problem is the wind chill that will possibly drop to negative 20 to negative 30 at times on Friday and Saturday. Temperatures were actually dropping below the 0 degree mark Thursday night. Snow starts up on Saturday, with Wayne County having the most, possibly seeing more than a foot of snow. The mercury will start to climb Sunday and Monday, getting above the freezing point for the first time since the day after Christmas.

As school and community-event closings began to roll in Thursday, safety and health concerns for kids was tops on the mind of area school superintendents. Kids walking or waiting at bus stops, along with road conditions, visibility for drivers and potential mechanical problems are all factors when deciding whether to close school, said Jeramy Clingerman, superintendent at Marcus Whitman Central School District. Like other superintendents, he was conferring Thursday afternoon with area highway chiefs, fellow school officials and the latest weather reports and predictions. If he didn’t decide before the end of the day Thursday, he would be up again about 4:15 a.m. Friday to evaluate what to do, Clingerman said.

As it happens, later in the day Thursday, Whitman did end up canceling for Friday. As of early Thursday evening, Bloomfield, Honeoye, Manchester-Shortsville (Red Jacket), Naples, Phelps-Clifton Springs (Midlakes) and Victor also had announced Friday cancellations.

At Ontario County Public Health, director Mary Beer said staying warm, heeding health and safety warnings, and watching out for others are crucial when the weather poses dangers like the current storm. Public Health on Wednesday released advice that includes checking on elderly family members or neighbors and bringing pets indoors.

Frostbite can happen in as little as 30 minutes, so if you have to go out, wear appropriate outdoor clothing; inner layers of light, warm clothing; mittens, hats, scarves, and waterproof boots. Carry a charged cell phone, and take a buddy and emergency kit when you are participating in outdoor recreation.

At Ontario County Social Services, they are talking about “Code Blue.” Whenever the wind chill drops below 32 degrees DSS is required to house homeless individuals, regardless of the person’s eligibility for regular services. Eileen Tiberio, Ontario County DSS commissioner, said people without a place to go when the temperature drops below freezing should go to DSS. On any given day Ontario County DSS houses eight to 10 families and 50 to 60 individuals who are without a permanent home.

“We make arrangements with local hotels and motels across the county to provide short-term shelter,” Tiberio said.

As predictions called for blizzard conditions and high winds to escalate Thursday night, energy/utility company New York State Electric and Gas announced it had “storm readiness teams” preparing and planning for impacts of the storm.

“The winds could bring tree limbs into contact with power lines, increasing the risk of power outages,” stated NYSEG. The company issued tips for customers such as enrolling in the free NYSEG Alerts service and keeping battery-operated flashlights and radios on hand, along with supplies of drinking water and non-perishable foods. Make sure that smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices are fully charged and that your car has a full tank of gas, the company said.

When using an emergency heating source, like a wood stove, fireplace, or kerosene heater, keep fuels away from the flames and be sure to ventilate properly. Never use grills or camp stoves indoors — they can give off dangerous gases. For customers with generators, never run a generator indoors, or even in an open garage. Do not store fuel indoors or try to refuel a generator while it’s running.

Keeping vents and gas meters clear of snow and ice is a key advisory from NYSEG and fellow utility Rochester Gas & Electric, with both companies subsidiaries of AVANGRID, Inc.

“We want customers to stay comfortable and safe all winter,” stated Robert Kump, chief executive officer of Avangrid Networks. “Taking the simple, but important step of keeping gas equipment free of snow and ice can help prevent serious safety hazards, and ensure that emergency responders have the access they need.”


Stay safe

Anyone in Ontario County who has no shelter can access shelter services by contacting the county Department of Social Services at 585-396-4060 or 877-814-6907 during regular business hours. After hours, shelter services can be accessed by calling 911 and asking for the DSS worker. Knowledgeable staff will explore shelter possibilities with the caller to identify the best option.