in this section
The devastation of an ice storm in Montreal in January,
Photo by Peter
In the past:
Tompkins County is no stranger to rough weather come winter.Low temperatures
in the negative digits, snowfalls waist-deep, or ice an inch thick is
all part of a typical winter here.
Some notable historical events:
- February, 1958: A large snowstorm hits the entire county. Roads are disrupted so badly that helicopters are used to bring in supplies.
- Early 1960s: Another bad snowstorm locks up the county.
- 1978: A large ice storm occurs. The situation becomes even worse when the ice and snow melt, triggering flooding.
- Other county-wide snow storms occurred in March 1993, January 1994, and March
- In October of 1996, it was determined that the Chestnut Hills Apartments had unsafe furnaces. 48 units had to be evacuated, and the Tompkins County Chapter of the American Red Cross provided services for 39 people and housing for 12.
- January, 2003: an ice storm strikes the southern and eastern part of the county.
Ithacation (ith-uh-CAY-shun): 1. n. (Tongue-in-cheek colloquialism):
mixed precipitation usually found daily in Ithaca from 1 October thru 1
May. 2. v. Weather conditions in which Ithacation is taking place: "Honey,
wear your coat -- it's Ithacating!
Risk to Tompkins County residents:
Cold weather and severe winter storms will happen in Tompkins County -- it's guaranteed by Mother Nature. Although we are not located in the "snow belt," we
always get our share of snow, ice, sleet, and a mixture of all three.
Some other types of severe weather and their descriptions taken from The
National Disaster Education Coalition (PDF):
- Blizzard: describes winds of 35 miles per hour or more,
accompanied by snow and blowing snow that reduce visibility to less than
a quarter-mile for at least three hours.
- Blowing Snow: describes wind-driven snow that reduces visibility. Blowing
snow may be falling snow and/or snow on the ground that is picked up by the
- Snow Squall: describes a brief, intense snow shower accompanied by strong,
gusty winds. Accumulation from snow squalls can be significant.
- Snow Shower: describes snow that falls at varying intensities for short durations
with little or no accumulation.
- Sleet: rain that freezes into ice pellets before it reaches the ground.
Sleet usually bounces when hitting a surface and does not stick to objects;
however, it can accumulate like snow and cause roads and walkways to become
- Freezing rain / ice storm: rain that falls onto a surface
that has a temperature below freezing. The cold surface causes the rain to
freeze so the
surfaces -- trees, utility wires, vehicles, roads, etc. -- become glazed with
ice. Even small accumulations of ice can cause significant hazards to people
(especially pedestrians and motorists) and property.
How to prepare:
- Have your emergency supply kit ready, and review your family communication plan. Make sure you've included warm hats, mittens, boots, scarves, and coats!
- Wear layers. Several layers of lighter clothing is warmer than one heavy coat, plus you can add or remove layers as you need.
- Have your furnace inspected and your chimney swept each year.
- Slow down! Don't walk as fast, and certainly don't drive as fast when you
go out into bad winter weather.
- Stay tuned to radio, TV, or internet weather reports for advance warning of approaching storms. Consider purchasing a NOAA Weather Radio.
- Know the differences between a winter weather advisory and a winter storm outlook,
watch, and warning:
- Winter Weather Advisory: winter weather conditions are
expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous.
- Winter Storm Outlook: winter storm conditions are possible in the next
two to five days.
- Winter Storm Watch: winter storm conditions are possible in the next
36 to 48 hours.
- Winter Storm Warning: life-threatening, severe winter conditions have
begun or will begin within 24 hours. Take precautions immediately!
- Be prepared for power outages. Winter storms are a common way power is disrupted.
- Have smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms installed in your home.
- Space heaters, fireplaces, wood stoves, and other "alternate heat sources" can
- Kerosene heaters, emergency generators, and other fuel-driven devices give off large amounts of carbon monoxide -- an odorless gas that pushes oxygen out of the air and can cause suffocation. Only operate these devices in a well-ventilated area!
- Know how to recognize and treat hypothermia.
- Have and keep snow shovels in good condition; have rock salt or another de-icer on hand, or keep kitty litter on hand to aid traction on slippery surfaces.
- Be honest with yourself about your physical health. If you are elderly or have a heart condition, shoveling snow may not be a good decision. Support private enterprise: hire a neighborhood kid to shovel your sidewalk and driveway!
Disaster Education Coalition - Guide to winter storm safety.
Red Cross - advice on winter storm safety and preparedness.
FEMA - list
of resources on winter storms.
FEMA for Kids - page
on winter storms.
The National Weather Service, Our
local NWS station is located in Binghamton -
A good source for information on current advisories, watches, and warnings.
The Weather Channel online.
Just enter your ZIP code!