ITHACA, N.Y. – As we all settle into the new year, temperatures in Central New York are dropping weekly, adding a level of inconvenience for those of us with new resolutions that involve being outdoors.

According to the National Weather Service, a significant wind chill and cold temperatures are expected to last throughout the weekend and into Sunday morning. Temperatures are predicted to fall as low as -20°F, and the lake effect is expected to bring snow from Thursday afternoon through Saturday. This could mean potential damage to exposed plumbing and poses health risks like frostbite and hypothermia.

Related: Winter storm closings and delays in Ithaca, Tompkins County

We’ve got you covered – from dressing warmly to unfreezing pipes to travel tips, here’s a list of things to keep in mind as you head into this weekend – hopefully with your mittens.

1. Stay warm outside & bundle up

With dangerously low temperatures and extreme wind chills, the cold air causes a risk of frostbite and hypothermia. More than 10 minutes outside may cause a risk of frostbite to exposed skin according to the Finger Lakes Weather, so if you’re planning on being outside at all this weekend it is strongly advised to wear several layers and cover as much skin as possible.

In extremely cold temperatures, The National Weather Service recommends at least three insulating top layers, an extra bottom layer (i.e. long johns), an outer layer to block the wind, waterproof boots, gloves, a warm hat and a face mask.

If you do find yourself outside in the cold or the temperatures manage to permeate your layers, be sure to keep an eye out for symptoms of hypothermia. These include shivering, stiff muscles, confusion, difficulty speaking and sleepiness, according to the National Weather Service. Symptoms of frostbite may include numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, or waxy feeling skin, said the American Red Cross of CNY in a news release. 

2. Be prepared

While Ithaca is not expected to see more than 5 inches of snow in the next four days, make sure you’re prepared for anything going into the icy weekend.

Lieutenant Tom Basher at the Ithaca Fire Department said in an emergency, the obvious necessities are important to stock up on – food, water, batteries, flashlights, etc. In case of an emergency, Basher also noted the importance of preparing your home for extreme weather conditions.

“In the case of an emergency, make sure the numbers on your house are visible, your porchlight is working and walkways are clear, so if you do have to call 911, emergency services can get to you as soon as possible.”

In the event that you may have to travel, make sure your car has been well-maintained and the anti-lock brakes are in good shape, Basher said. He also recommended keeping road flares, a charged cell phone or portable charger and extra layers in the vehicle as well in case of an emergency.

“Make sure you’ve got lots of warm clothes in the car in case you’re stuck in the snow or waiting for a tow truck,” Basher said.

3. Safe traveling

Despite recommendations for staying travel prepared, Basher said traveling this weekend is highly discouraged.

“The best thing people can do is not drive if they can help it,” he said. “They do a great job maintaining the roads, but the roads are going to be treacherous this weekend, and they’ll be taking care of the main arteries first, so avoid back roads if you can. If you do have to travel, give yourself plenty of time and be cautious with ice on the road.”

Finger Lakes Weather has warned commuters of slippery road conditions, especially in the evenings this weekend. Additionally, low visibility is to be expected due to falling, blowing and drifting snow, particularly in open areas. Be sure to keep a safe distance from other cars traveling on the road in case of a sudden stop.

TCAT issued a press release on Thursday morning stating that all buses will offer free rides on all routes throughout the wind chill period until Saturday.

“No one should be exposed to these temperatures and this is just one way that TCAT can pitch in to protect our community from the deadly elements,” TCAT General Manager Scot Vanderpool said in a press release. “We don’t want to hear a single story of anyone suffering out there due to lack of funds to ride a warm bus.” 

Due to the weather, slight delays may be expected – passengers are asked to dress warmly and arrive at their bus stops on time.

4. Keep your home warm & prevent house fires

After seeing a spike in house fires throughout Tompkins County in the past few weeks, safely heating the home is crucial in the midst of a cold front.

Especially with dangerously cold temperatures, pipes in the home are at a higher risk of freezing, especially if they are exposed. Basher said keeping furnaces and vents clear of snow or other blockages is especially important.

“As people prepare, it’s important to make sure pipes are insulated, wrapped, or at least blocked from the wind outside which may cool things down,” Basher said. “Taking care of pipes may mean opening up faucets you may not use as much just to get something flowing through there.”

The biggest precaution, Basher said, was to avoid using an open flame to defrost frozen pipes, which causes a high risk for a house fire. Instead, a hairdryer is the recommended tool in the case that you may need to thaw out a pipe at home. While saving money may be an initiative to leave the heat off, Basher said to avoid additional complications with pipes the thermostat should be set to at least 60°F.

With dropping temperatures, it is likely people may heat their homes by alternative sources such as space heaters, an additional risk for unwanted flames.

The Red Cross suggests keeping a space heater on a solid, level surface and should be kept at least 3 feet away from items like paper, clothing, bedding, curtains, rugs or fuel. Improper use of alternative sources of heat in a sealed house may cause elevated carbon monoxide levels in the home, according to the National Weather Service, so make sure carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors are also up to date and working properly. 

5. Pets, neighbors, shoveling and other miscellaneous tips

In preparation for the cold front, also keep in mind these last few things.

  • Check in on your neighbors. The Red Cross suggests stopping or calling to check on disabled, elderly or young neighbors to make sure they’re doing okay in the extreme weather conditions.
  • Bring your pets inside if you can. If you’re unable to bring a pet inside, make sure they have plenty of shelter and access to unfrozen water.
  • Use caution while taking part in strenuous activities outside – this may include shoveling and keeping walkways clear.
  • Stay alert for closures and cancellations – at this time, all Ithaca City School District after-school and evening activities are canceled due to weather, and six food scraps recycling spots have been closed, including Danby Town Hall, Dryden Town Highway Department, East Hill Plaza, Lansing Village Office, Tompkins County Highway Department on Bostwick Road and Trumansburg Village Public Works.

As we brace ourselves for an especially cold weekend, make sure to stay safe, stay warm and keep these tips in mind moving forward.

Infographic courtesy of the National Weather Service.

Alyvia is a Crime Reporter with The Ithaca Voice. She graduated from Ithaca College with a degree in Journalism and Photography.