A Lake Effect Snow Warning has been issued for Erie and Genesee Counties, from 1 p.m. today through 1 a.m. Thursday. Tony Ansuini of the National Weather Service expects heavy snow and strong winds will make for a difficult afternoon commute.
The Erie County Health Department also issued a special winter weather advisory.
"When low temperatures are combined with a significant wind chill making cold air feel even more frigid, staying warm and safe is critical," said Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein. "Prolonged exposure to cold temperatures, whether indoors or outside, can cause serious and in some cases life-threatening health problems. Everyone needs to be aware of the anticipated weather conditions and prepare and dress appropriately."
Burstein said uncontrollable shivering can be a first sign of hypothermia: when a body's temperature falls below normal. Other symptoms include slow speech, memory lapses, frequent stumbling and drowsiness.
Another danger of cold weather is frostbite, which can cause permanent danger. Symptoms include numbness and a white or pale appearance on fingers, toes, ears and nose.
If hypothermia or frostbite is suspected, Burstein said to slow the person slowly and "seek immediate medical attention."
She also advised that cold weather can put additional strain on the heart. "Anyone with heart disease or high blood pressure should follow their healthcare provider's advice about shoveling snow and other outside activities," she said.
Those with a smartphone can download the ReadyErie app from the county's website for more daily and emergency cold weather information.
The City of Buffalo activated Code Blue overnight, as temperatures were expected to dip below 15 degrees. Warming shelters were opened at the Matt Urban Hope Center at 1081 Broadway, St. Luke's Mission of Mercy at 325 Walden Avenue and Harbor House at 241 Genesee Street. The City Mission, WNY Coalition for the Homeless and others also hit the streets, reaching out to those in need of warmth, during a Code Blue.