ADVERTISEMENT

Long underwear, heavyweight parkas, gloves, scarves and earmuffs – not to mention party hats, noisemakers and a hot Thermos of something – will be on tonight’s checklist of essential items for counting down the minutes to 2014 outdoors.

Frigid conditions with temperatures in the teens and wind chills that are expected to bottom out around zero degrees will prevail in Buffalo Niagara for annual New Year’s Eve festivities. Spawned by a cold front that will pull Arctic air across the whole of the region, it will be a prelude of what’s to come, forecasters said. January will start under some of the coldest air to grip the region thus far this season.

“It won’t be the coldest night of the week, but temperatures will be between 10-15 degrees,” said Tony Ansuini, meteorologist with the National Weather Service, of tonight’s forecast. “Wednesday to Thursday will be even colder with daytime highs only in the teens and overnight lows about zero.”

A band of lake-effect snow is expected to shift southward from the Buffalo metro area and northern suburbs as today wears on, Ansuini said. The lake-effect snow is forecast to settle in the Southern Tier tonight and on New Year’s Day, with 6-12 inches expected.

The deep subfreezing cold prompted a “Code Blue” emergency overnight and for at least tonight as well. The alert means that warming shelters were open at the Buffalo City Mission at 100 E. Tupper St. and St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy at 325 Walden Ave.

The blast of extreme cold will stick around through the workweek.

“It looks like this cold snap looks to break by Saturday,” said Ansuini.

High temperatures will return closer to January’s average – 31 degrees – by the weekend, with mid-20s forecast Saturday and the low 30s by Sunday and Monday.

If past years are any indication, the expected plunge on the thermometer won’t have much effect on New Year’s revelers at the 26th annual Buffalo Ball Drop & Fireworks at the Electric Tower.

Tens of thousands of hearty, Buffalo faithful routinely brave the elements to count down the moments to midnight and welcome the New Year in downtown Buffalo, which organizers boast, makes the event “the second largest ... in the United States.”

Tonight’s show kicks off at 10:30 p.m. at Roosevelt Plaza – where Huron, Genesee and Washington streets join. Singing sensation and Orchard Park native Caitlin Koch headlines the show, which concludes with the ball drop – synced with the similar drop in New York City’s Times Square – and fireworks at midnight.

Several streets will be closed in the area to accommodate the event starting at 7 a.m. today, including Washington between East Huron and Genesee, and the south side of West Huron between Pearl and Main streets. Five others will be shut down later today on a staggered schedule at 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m, according to the Police Athletic League of Buffalo.

When tonight’s clock strikes midnight, it will close the weather book on 2013 – a mostly normal overall year climatically with some topsy-turvy moments.

The biggest roller-coaster rides of this past year’s calendar were found during the months of January and October.

Last January’s temperature ended at more than five degrees above normal, bolstered by six days at or above 50 degrees including a 66-degree record breaking day Jan. 30. But, it wasn’t all warm. The mercury dropped as low as 1 degree on Jan. 25.

October was also an above-average month for warmth – about 3.5 degrees – with nine days of the first three weeks at or above 70 degrees and an 83-degree day on Oct. 6. Eight of the last 10 days finished below normal, however.

Some of the year’s other weather highlights included:

• The conclusion of the 2012-13 winter season with only 58.8 inches of snow, nearly 36 inches less than normal, making it the second winter in a row with unusually low snowfall totals.

• Nearly double the amount of average rainfall during the month of June – 7.16 inches at Buffalo Niagara International Airport – making it the sixth-wettest June in Buffalo’s recorded weather history.

• A 78-degree Lake Erie temperature recorded the earliest ever in recorded weather history – July 19 – following a string of 90-plus degree days.

• An unusually cool November, which was more than 3 degrees below normal, making it the first month with a below-normal temperature since January 2011. Temperatures dropped into the teens six times, tying 2013 with 1951 as the most times that’s happened since weather records were moved to the airport 70 years ago. Ten inches of snow was recorded in November – 2 inches above average – with seven straight days of measurable snow between Nov. 23 and the day after Thanksgiving, Nov. 29.

email: tpignataro@buffnews.com