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A deep-freeze weekend ; Temperatures set to plummet until at least Tuesday

Single digits won't be kind to exposed digits this weekend.

Wear your gloves -- we're in the deep, deep freeze.

Daytime high temperatures will struggle to make it to the teens with nighttime lows in the single digits.

And by Sunday night, the low in Buffalo is expected to descend to minus 4.

"It's basically a weather system coming through with a lot of cold, arctic air behind it," said Chris Fisher, an intern meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

The coldest air mass of the season may well complete the freeze-over of Lake Erie -- which was 75-80 percent frozen as of late Friday. On the up side, this will impede lake-effect snowfall.

In the meantime, however, lake-effect snow warnings were posted until noon today from Niagara Falls to Utica for up to a foot or more of accumulation off Lake Ontario. And in southern Erie, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties, 6 to 10 inches were expected by 6 a.m.

The average high temperature for this time of year is 31 degrees with lows in the upper teens for an overall average of 24 degrees. Today's projected high of 15 degrees is the warmest it'll be until at least Tuesday, with an overall average of 7 degrees over that period, pushing temperatures 15 to 20 degrees below normal.

That, combined with west winds today that shift to the north tonight, will make it feel like it is consistently below zero, according to the National Weather Service.

The bone-chilling cold prompted a "Code Blue" activation by the City Mission for the city's homeless. Warming shelters are available at the 100 E. Tupper St. facility and St. Luke's Mission of Mercy, 325 Walden Ave.

Area utilities and public officials also were urging residents to be cautious when dealing with the extreme cold.

Making sure appliances and furnaces are in good working order is important, according to National Fuel officials, who also advise residents or families living without heat to contact the utility to get service restored.

Residents experiencing an emergency because of the cold are advised to use the utility's 24-hour emergency number at (800) 444-3130.

Insulating exposed pipes or letting them drip to prevent them from freezing is also encouraged. Fire officials strongly advise against using torches or other hazardous means to thaw frozen pipes.

Residents also are urged not to leave pets outside during the extreme cold for prolonged periods of time.

Cold, windy and snowy conditions Friday night canceled after-school activities and religious meetings throughout the region. Traffic mishaps -- from fender benders to the severe -- were blamed on the extreme weather.

In Orleans County, icy roads were blamed in a two-vehicle crash in Albion about noon Friday that left a Niagara Falls woman seriously injured. Sheriff's officials said a Honda driven by Sandra A. Marasco, 49, crossed the center line of Route 31 and collided with a van driven by Stanley R. Bowers, 45, of Lyndonville.

Marasco was taken by ambulance to Medina Memorial Hospital and then by Mercy Flight to Erie County Medical Center. Her condition was unavailable late Friday. Bowers and a female passenger were taken to the Medina hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Another collision involving injury occurred just before 5 p.m. on the northbound Niagara Thruway near Porter Avenue, creating long delays in rush-hour traffic Friday.

Authorities were also on the scene of a crash just before 7 p.m. at the Milestrip Road exit of the eastbound Thruway.

Details of those crashes were not available from state police late Friday.

e-mail: tpignataro@buffnews.com

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