Bitter cold lingers into New Year; officials caution home heating safety measures

The new year will be rung in during a cold week, according to meteorologists, and while this isn’t the coldest New Year the county has seen, below freezing weather has plenty of dangers to keep in mind.

This stretch of weather is thanks to a blast of cold air that came behind the light snow fall that fell over the region on Christmas.

According to Chief Todd Heckman, of the Williamsport Bureau of Fire, this time of year many homeowners make mistakes that could lead to fires when it comes to heating their homes.

“Portable heating units are a temporary solution and people need to keep them clear of combustible items,” Heckman said. “This time of year people love to load their house with presents, decorations and Christmas trees and it’s all combustible.”

Heckman also warned against using out dated methods of heating a home or using appliances that aren’t meant to do the job.

“It sends a chill down my spine that people still use kerosene heaters,” he said. “And electric and gas cooking appliances are not a supplemental heat source. Your cooking appliances are not heating appliances. Ovens, toaster ovens, propane, they’re not used inside for heating.”

The fire department has seen its share of fires started with individuals trying to thaw their frozen pipes with open flames.

“The other issues we see this time of year are people who have frozen pipes and use torches to melt them,” Heckman said.

Bryan Mix, owner of Plumbing Masters in South Williamsport, suggests using a hair dryer on any frozen pipes and making sure cracks or openings in your house are sealed.

“The foundation walls, if you get a cold wind, and there’s cracks,” Mix said, “it’ll freeze the pipes when they normally wouldn’t have frozen.”

This week’s forecast will not exceed the high 20s, according to Craig Evanego, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in State College.

“Today will be a sunny, but chilly day with a high temperature at around 20 degrees,” Evanego said. “Tonight will be a cold night with clouds coming in and lows in the single digits.”

That cold weather will hold through the end of the week and into the weekend. Friday will rise to the high 20s and Saturday will dip to the low 20s, with a 30 to 40 percent chance of snow showers on both days.

“It’s not looking like a big snowfall but it could be a bit,” Evanego said.

Eric Barlett, a physical therapist with UPMC Susquehanna, suggests that those shoveling snow should adhere to a list of rules that will help keep them safe.

“Maintain a straight back and bend at the knees. Avoiding twisting motions like turning side to side.” Barlett said. “Wear appropriate clothing, take breaks and hydrate.”

This week’s temperature is about 10 degrees colder than usual for this time of the year, according to Evanego, but Friday’s high of 20 degrees is close to the record coldest high in the area of 13 in 1935.

New Year’s Eve will have less of a chance for snow showers but will be even colder with highs in the teens.

“New Year’s Eve is going to be cold,” Evanego said, “partly cloudy with a wind chill below zero and lows in the single digits.”

The coldest recorded high in the region for New Year’s Eve was only 9 degrees in 1917, according to Evanego. But the weather service is calling for 24 for this year.

Monday will have highs in the upper teens and will be mostly sunny, while Tuesday and Wednesday may be warmer, Evanego said.

“The potential is there that maybe the temps will moderate by the end of the week but there is still uncertainty there,” he said.