Central New York got its first taste of the upcoming winter season when a trace to five inches of snow fell in various parts of the Mohawk Valley a little over a week ago. While there remains no prediction of snow in upcoming forecasts, this early snowfall has reminded many residents of this area that a warm autumn is coming to an end and that long winter months are just around the corner.
Regardless of whether or not you celebrated the snowfall or wished for it to melt away, there is no denying that winter is at CNY’s doorstep. It is not uncommon for this area to see a white layer of snow before Thanksgiving. Last year, higher elevations within Oneida County saw around two inches of snow the morning of their Thanksgiving feast.
While we have experienced a warmer fall than usual, it is unlikely that said luck will apply to the winter season we have ahead of us. According to early reports from The Farmer’s Almanac, the Utica-area will see a colder than normal winter, with above-normal precipitation and snowfall and cold spells in mid-December and mid-January. The snowiest periods are predicted to come in mid-December, early January and early-to-mid-March.
Heavy snowfalls can bring about travel hazards for commuter students and can make mobility around campus troublesome. Director of Campus Safety Musco Millner feels that Utica College is well prepared for whatever winter will throw our way.
“After coordination with the facilities and grounds personnel, we make sure that the parking lots and sidewalks are plowed and salted when it snows or the conditions get icy,” he said.
Contrary to what The Farmer’s Almanac is predicting for the area, the Northeast Regional Climate Center (NRCC), located in Ithaca, is calling for a warmer than usual winter season.
According to a quarterly report published by the NRCC, much of the continental U.S. will experience a warmer climate this winter due to a weak La Nina. La Nina is described as the cooling of the surface of the Pacific Ocean. A dull La Nina means that the winds brought to the coasts may not be as cold as usual, leading to the possibility of a warmer winter season.
Regardless of which early prediction is true, CNY should plan for a winter that is common in our area, including lake effect snow, freezing rain and whiteout conditions.
According to CNYWeather.com, a locally owned weather station and blog based out of Westmoreland, the site recorded 73.6 inches of snow between the months of Nov. 2019 to May 2020. The most amount of snowfall to cover the area took place in February, with a whopping 27.7 inches recorded. Of course, areas located in higher elevations may see more snow than those located in the valley.
Students who commute to UC, as well as everyone who has to drive anywhere in the winter, should be properly prepared for the possibility of treacherous traffic when on the roads.
“I get kind of scared when driving to and from school,” said Leah Scalise, a senior. “I just sometimes never know what to expect when driving or how long it will take me to get to class, and I always try my best to avoid being late. Also, driving on back roads makes things scary because they are nothing like driving on the well-plowed city roads around campus.”
A report published in January by the AAA Foundation of Traffic Safety found that 46% of traffic accidents and crashes take place during the winter months. In the event that you are in an emergency, AAA recommends that drivers have a crisis kit located somewhere in your car. The kit should include, but not limited to, items such as a blanket, a flashlight, jumper cables, a first-aid kit and drinking water.
A statement released by the Office of Academic Affairs on Nov. 2 stressed the importance of remaining safe while coming to and leaving campus during the winter months and also informed students and faculty of what to do if coming to campus is not an option.
“If the college is closed, opens late, or closes early due to bad weather, we will put out an announcement via UC’s alert system,” the announcement said. “Faculty – regardless of the reason, if you are unable to make it to class, but classes are in session, please notify your students as soon as possible. Students – regardless of the reason, if you are unable to make it to class, but classes are in session, please notify your faculty member using your UC email account as soon as possible.”
Regardless of what this winter season will bring, UC remains confident that they will be able to keep members of the community safe and will be able to conform to the rapidly changing weather forecasts.
“Unfortunately, we are at the mercy of Mother Nature,” Millner said. “While there isn’t a set plowing schedule (i.e. 3 times/day), we are prepared for some days plowing once a day and others meaning continuous plowing for 24 hours until the storm passes.”