ADVERTISEMENT

We are starting to believe the weather forecasters, maybe because the weather recently has been so extreme no one has to exaggerate to get the public’s attention.

When they said “Snow,” we got snow, and when they said “Cold,” did they ever mean it.

The National Weather Service reports that, so far, this is the coldest winter in the Buffalo area since 1976-77, with temperatures averaging at least 2 degrees below normal for November, December and January.

It is no surprise that with today’s continuing sub-freezing forecast, supplemented with winds that could push the chill way below zero, people are rethinking plans for outdoor activities.

The Buffalo Audubon Society has moved its “Winter Gulls” walk and talk, originally planned for the frozen side of the Niagara Gorge near Artpark, to the New York Power Authority’s Visitors’ Center at 9:30 a.m. Participants can still learn what attracts the birds to the Niagara River and how they survive in extreme conditions, but they will have to pass on trying to view the birds in winds that have been predicted to reach 40 mph.

Today’s Snowshoe Adventure Hike nature event in Delaware Park was canceled entirely, as wind-driven snow makes it nearly impossible to explore the nuances of winter ecology, or pick out tracks from local wildlife.

On the other hand, in Hamburg, a lake-effect town familiar with the fickle nature of nature, Jerry Bastedo was hesitant on Friday to officially cancel a scheduled cross-country ski and snowshoeing program scheduled for this morning at the Penn Dixie Paleontological and Outdoor Education Center. He was taking a wait-and-see approach.

“You have to use a little common sense. If we get the wind they’re predicting, it could make driving here difficult and they may even close the roads again,” said Bastedo, executive director of the site. “I’m not optimistic we’ll get a lot of people, but, a couple years ago when it was minus 3 on the site, I had 11 people signed up for the hike and seven of the 11 showed up. It wasn’t too bad – you can work up a sweat cross-country skiing. Of course, there was no wind that day.”

The final call will be made this morning, he said.

On the bright side, at least this time they will have snow to schuss across. There wasn’t any for their December hike.

That deficit has been corrected. For the 2013-14 winter season, we were at 69.6 inches of snow on Friday, and are probably topping 70 inches by today – about 44 inches more than last year’s snowfall total at this time.

Thanks to the cold, this snow will be around for a while. With the polar vortex earlier this month and its cousin, the current Alberta Clipper that is passing through, January will be registering the kind of average temperatures that keep glaciers going.

By Friday, Buffalo was 3.4 degrees colder than the average for the month, thanks to 13 of the 23 recorded days being below the norm. Nine were more than 10 degrees below average and one, Jan. 7, the day of the blizzard, was 23 degrees below the “normal” of 25 degrees – which is beginning to sound fairly mild.

The last time it was this cold here for the first three months of winter was during what the weather service calls “the infamous winter of 1976-77,” when temperatures were a frigid 5.5 degrees below normal for the same months.

Anyone still hoping for a January thaw can give up. Temperatures this week have been 15 to 20 degrees below normal, and it’s unlikely that they will touch 30 degrees anytime next week. In the entire month, there were only two days that stayed – barely – above freezing, Jan. 11, when temperatures touched 50 degrees before dipping to 34, and Jan. 13, which ranged from 33 to 51 degrees.

The winter weather advisory expires at 7 p.m. today, with Sunday’s forecast solidly in the teens. With less wind, that means near-perfect weather for Winterfest 2014 at Chestnut Ridge Park. Events center on the casino from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. There should be plenty of material for the snow sculpting, and the toboggan runs and sledding hill are ready to go. It’s free, except for the hayrides.

Enjoy it while you can. As Bastedo, who admits to being an optimist, puts it, “In a week it will be the Super Bowl, and not too long after that we’ll be looking at spring.”

email: mmiller@buffnews.com