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End of bitter cold means perfect timing for winter festival

The whipping wind and bitter cold are coming to an end, and temperatures are forecast to climb into the 20s and mid-30s, just in time for an all-day outdoor festival this weekend.

“The cold air is finally moving out of the upper Midwest and Northeast, and will retreat back into Canada,” said meteorologist Jon Hitchcock of the National Weather Service in Buffalo. “It doesn’t look like there is any bitterly cold air coming in for the next 10 days or so.”

The weather may be improving, but it didn’t come in time for Buffalo-area commuters, who had one of their roughest drives home Wednesday evening, with minor accidents slowing traffic, and wind-blown snow forcing the closing of the Skyway from mid-afternoon well into the evening.

The prospect of more seasonable weather is good news for the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy’s fourth Flurrious festival, which begins at 9 a.m. Saturday near the Parkside Lodge in Delaware Park and will include such snowy sports as snow tennis, kickball, Kan-Jam, golf and Quidditch.

Organizers appeared to have picked the weekend with the optimum weather conditions, if the forecast holds up.

Wednesday was the last really cold day, and while lows this morning will be in the single digits, the day’s highs will be in the mid- to upper 20s, Hitchcock said.

A “decent breeze” will make it feel colder than it is but still far warmer than it has been this week, he said.

Wind gusts reached 47 mph Wednesday but are forecast to significantly slow down. Winds will fall to 10 to 15 mph today and Friday, and 5 to 10 mph Saturday.

Precipitation for the rest of the week isn’t expected to be much of an issue.

Light snow is expected to fall late tonight or Friday morning, but only about a half-inch. A more significant system that could include sleet, freezing rain or rain could hit Western New York on Saturday afternoon and into the night, but that isn’t certain, Hitchcock said. There might be some slippery travel Saturday night, but no major issues are expected.

Morning lows will be in the mid-20s. Highs on Friday and Saturday will be in the low to mid-30s, and the winds won’t be as intense.

Though the wind and freezing temperatures have lasted for 12 days, the recent weather hasn’t broken any records, according to the National Weather Service. The coldest wind chills Wednesday were around 20 below zero between 4 and 8 a.m., and 25 below in the Southern Tier.

The high Sunday is forecast to be 27. Temperatures will fall to the mid-20s early next week, and lows will be in the teens, which is a little below average but nothing unusual, Hitchcock said.

Flurrious, which offers both indoor and outdoor activities, from listening to music and drinking beer in a heated tent to making snowmen outside, could offer a chance to beat cabin fever.

“We tend to hunker down in the wintertime, don’t we? And here we are in one of the most beautiful landscapes in Western New York,” said Thomas Herrera-Mishler, president and chief executive officer of the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy. “It sounds like we’re going to have perfect conditions this Saturday, plenty of snow, not terribly cold.”

New this year is a soccer tournament, geocaching and a tour of the park for cross-country skiers.

For the less-athletic, there will be food trucks and a “stews and brews” heated tent catered by Liberty Hound restaurant, and music by Geno McManus, David Kane and Dan Harper.

For children there will be face-painting, science projects inside the heated Parkside Lodge and a snowman-making contest.

The event is free, though some sporting events require pre-registration at

The activities run from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and take place near the lodge and the Buffalo Zoo:

• 9 a.m.: Kickball tournament, registration for outdoor events, cafe opens in the lodge.

• 10 a.m.: Family fun run, snow soccer, snow tennis, geocaching, Kan-Jam, international Quidditch tournament (popularized by the Harry Potter series).

• 11 a.m.: Food trucks open near the Buffalo Zoo and close at 3 p.m. Stews and brews opens in the Wegmans tent and will run until the festival ends. Also, an igloo-building demonstration, snowman-making challenge, kite-flying demonstrations, snow golf and children’s activities.

• 1 p.m.: Bike ride.

• 3:15 p.m.: Cross-country ski tour of the park. Skiers should bring their own skis.