Cold snap staying At least through the weekend
BY JON RUTTER, Staff Writer
How stubborn is this cold snap?
So stubborn that a swan reportedly got stuck in pond ice Wednesday morning in Manheim Township.
Police were called to free the creature, said Randall Gockley, the county's emergency management coordinator.
"I don't know if the bird fell asleep or something and its wing froze," he said.
The official National Weather Service low, measured earlier in the day at Lancaster Airport, was 8 degrees.
Today's forecast high: low 20s. The freeze should ease after the weekend.
But not before a reinforcing cold shot arrives Saturday –– on the heels of a Pacific storm.
Millersville University meteorologist Eric Horst said the storm's Gulf of Mexico moisture supply has dwindled from earlier projections.
"It looks like a lighter event" now, he said Wednesday. "A coating to 2 inches would be my preliminary estimate."
Horst added that he expects frigid air to "dive back in" after the warmup early next week.
"It is an energetic pattern" and a "rude awakening" from the balmy early-January setup that lifted temperatures about 15 degrees above normal, Horst said.
"I think we're going to see additional discharges of cold air coming down" from the polar regions through early February, he added. "I see the pattern producing more cold days than warm days."
All of this has evidently generated few emergencies so far, Gockley said, "knock on wood."
But the weather put a strain on a homeless shelter in Columbia.
The Rev. David Powers said people have surged into the refuge run by Columbia Presbyterian Church, 360 Locust St., where he's pastor.
"In the past few days," he said, "we've noticed a significant change. We are very near our capacity" of 15 at the shelter, which circulates among six local churches, Powers said.
He added that "food and paper supplies" such as toilet paper and paper towels run out faster in cold weather.
"All kinds of paper products are always in demand," as are canned goods, pasta and jars of spaghetti sauce.
"The most precious commodity right now seems to be coffee."
Bethany Woodcock, coordinator for Lancaster Winter Women's Shelter, said she was on a search for pillows, hot chocolate, creamer and soup in cups.
The shelter run by the Lancaster County Council of Churches has consistently served about 25 women a night since it opened for the season in December, she added.
"I really think our numbers are up this year but I don't think it's because of the cold, I think it's because of the economy."
Freezing weather drives others to seek shelter in hospital lobbies, emergency rooms and cars, said Jim S. Amstutz, who pastors Akron Mennonite Church and serves on the leadership council of the Lancaster County Coalition to End Homelessness.
In the Midwest, the polar cold was blamed for multiple deaths.
At midweek, the National Weather Service was warning of dangerous cold in northern New York and New England, where the temperature dipped as low as 36 degrees below zero.
Snowmobilers stayed home, and Wildcat Mountain, a ski resort near Mount Washington, N.H., was closed Wednesday because of a predicted wind chill of minus 48 degrees.
In Pennsylvania, said State College-based National Weather Service meteorologist Craig Evanego, "It's pretty impressive we're as cold as we are" with no snow on the ground.
The snow drought is one reason the chilliest air in two years has broken no local records, according to Horst, who said snow cover can knock down the ambient temperature by 5 to 10 degrees.
While the county is much colder than usual –– the typical high this time of year is supposed to be about 39 –– it's much warmer than it was Jan. 24, 1961, when the mercury sank to minus 7.
And about that drought.
The first two weeks of February are statistically famous for being the heaviest snow makers of the year.