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‘I’m pretty much done with this winter’

You can see it on people’s faces.

Enough is enough.

A year removed from a two-blizzard winter that many thought set the bar for modern-day harshness, this one seems even more grueling.

February’s thermometer hasn’t breached the freezing mark, and forecasts show it likely won’t.

It’s on pace to become the second-coldest February in the Buffalo area in at least 145 years. All that chill has kept the snow piles as deep and lasting as they’ve been since 1977.

For the sixth time this month, residents are waking up Friday to temperatures below zero.

To add insult to injury, forecasts show below-normal cold will continue to grip Buffalo Niagara and the eastern United States into early March.

“I’m pretty much done with this winter,” said Joe Speranza, who manages a local auto shop.

He is hardly alone.

It was 2 degrees outside of the Orchard Park Road Ted’s Hot Dogs in Orchard Park as dinner time approached Thursday, but business was heating up inside.

“It brings us a little bit of summer,” said Doug Aldridge of Cheektowaga on his way into Ted’s with his wife, Patty. “We’re still going to eat inside, though. No picnic table today.”

Looking for some places to find warmer temperatures than Buffalo this month? Here are a few:

Bismarck, N.D. Minneapolis. Anchorage, Alaska. Edmonton, Alberta.

Want to travel a little farther for a warmup? Try Reykjavik, Iceland, or Minsk, Belarus.

“It’s definitely an odd trend,” said Steve Welch, meteorologist at the National Weather Service.

Welch said a “strong ridge” of cold air in western North America is creating a “strong trough” in the east.

The weather pattern is strengthening storm systems that pass by and helping pull frigid air south behind it from the deep polar regions.

As the calendar rolls on into March and the first day of spring approaches, that will have to change.

In the meantime, it’s a waiting game until the great thaw. And the cold still seems to have the upper hand.

Wind chill warnings were posted through 10 a.m. Friday across Western New York.

Temperatures are forecast to stay below zero through noon Friday. With the wind, the weather service warns of “dangerous cold and potentially life-threatening wind chills.”

It was as direct a statement as they come in a week when the body of a 47-year-old Niagara Falls woman was discovered near her home Tuesday.

Octavia Wilson of Niagara Avenue apparently froze to death.

Fortunately, that’s been the exception rather than the rule this winter.

It appears the weather’s severity – and advisories from public health officials – might be convincing people to take the dangers associated with the bitter cold seriously.

Patients reporting weather-related conditions at the Erie County Medical Center are down from last year, hospital officials said.

“We actually had about 50 percent fewer cold-weather cases this year than we did last year,” said hospital spokesman Joe Cirillo.

Are people staying inside and heeding the warnings?

“I’m not sure we can theorize,” Cirillo said. “We certainly would hope that that is the case.”

Some businesses – and, of course, school districts – also were taking no chances.

Delta Sonic shut down all of its car washes in New York and Pennsylvania on Thursday to protect its employees from the extreme cold weather.

The West Seneca, Depew, Orchard Park and Frontier school districts all announced they will be closed Friday on account of the cold weather,

At the University at Buffalo, the Red Jacket residence hall reopened early Thursday to its 500 or so residents who were displaced overnight after a frozen sprinkler system burst near an electrical panel, cutting power and heat to the six-building complex. The university arranged a makeshift overnight shelter for students at Alumni Arena.

Freezing pipes aren’t just a problem inside buildings.

A frozen fire hydrant hampered Buffalo firefighters early Thursday as they battled an East Side blaze.

The fire at 78 Bryson St. broke out just after 7 a.m., causing $65,000 damage and leaving its occupants under the care of the American Red Cross.

The extreme cold is also taking its toll on area agriculture.

The region’s grape-growers, whose vineyards were raked by last year’s harsh winter, are eyeing more losses this winter.

“It’s going to be worse,” said Luke Haggerty, a specialist from Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Lake Erie Regional Grape Program in Portland. “They’re going to have a lot more damage this year.”

Haggerty is still examining data, but given that the temperatures in Chautauqua County dropped into the neighborhood of 20 below zero over the last week, he expects the crop damage to be substantial. That will include the heartier native Concord and Niagara grapes this year as well.

“That’s twice as cold as it was last year,” Haggerty said.

News Staff Reporter Janice L. Habuda contributed to this report. email: tpignataro@buffnews.com