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Area slowly recovers after brutal freeze

The deep freeze is over.

The weekend arctic cold snap that plunged temperatures well below zero across Western New York early Monday eased up later in the day. By evening, readings had hit 20 degrees.

"We're in for kind of a near-normal week," meteorologist Jon Hitchcock of the National Weather Service office at Buffalo Niagara International Airport in Cheektowaga said Monday evening. "We'll have low to mid 30s [today] and Wednesday and mid to upper 20s Thursday and Friday. It won't be nearly as cold as it was over the weekend."

How cold was it?

Officially, the mercury hit 8 below at the airport at 5:14 a.m. Monday. It was not a record -- that was 11 below in 1963 -- but it was cold enough to freeze water pipes, force a number of closings and keep hundreds of cars, trucks and buses from starting.

The numbing predawn temperatures forced many school districts to close for the day. Those included Depew, East Aurora, Hamburg, Orchard Park and West Seneca in Erie County, along with Niagara Falls, Lockport and North Tonawanda in Niagara County.

The AAA of Western and Central New York reported a heavy volume of calls from stranded motorists.

"By 5 p.m., we had completed 1,200 service calls," said Buffalo area spokesman Shaun Seufert. "That's a very busy winter day. On the average, we have 700 calls a day in the winter."

Seufert said 60 percent of the calls involved battery problems.

Hitchcock said it was the coldest day Buffalo had seen in 15 years, since a record minus 10 was registered on Jan. 6, 1996. The biggest chill of all time here was minus 20 on Feb. 2, 1961.

Parts of upstate New York saw temperatures colder than that early Monday. Saranac Lake, in the heart of the Adirondacks, registered a minus 37.

Closer to home, the coldest Western New York reading reported to the National Weather Service was minus 26 in Franklinville. Wellsville had minus 18. Dunkirk saw minus 16. It was minus 13 in South Warsaw and minus 12 in Niagara Falls.

The lowest report from Erie County was minus 16 in Wales, south of East Aurora. It was minus 10 in Elma and West Seneca.

In addition, there were unofficial reports of minus 19 in East Concord, minus 17 in Pendleton and Amherst and minus 13 in Lake View.

News Staff Reporter Gene Warner contributed to this report.

e-mail: danderson@buffnews.com

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