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Cold dip follows two lake rescues, a foot race in weekend warmup

Two ice rescues on frozen Lake Erie and a foot race through the slushy streets of Buffalo gave pause to the weather-weary over the weekend.

The Erie County Sheriff’s Department’s Air One helicopter was deployed Saturday evening to help lead a dozen people off the lake in the Town of Evans, including two ice fishermen who became stranded after an axle broke on their all-terrain vehicle.

Meanwhile, a Fort Erie, Ont., man whose ATV got stuck on the lake Saturday also required assistance, according to Niagara Regional Police Service in Ontario, Canada.

It wasn’t ice, but slush that presented a bit of challenge to more than 300 runners in the 36th annual Chilly Challenge 5K Race sponsored Sunday by the Canisius High School Alumni Association. The race, which started at the high school, proceeded along Delaware Avenue, over to West Utica Street, up Elmwood Avenue to Forest Avenue, around Gates Circle and back onto Delaware.

“The worst part was when we started going uphilll on Forest,” said Pete Gratien of Syracuse, who won the race, with a finishing time of 16 minutes and 37 seconds.

Temperatures in the mid teens, however, seemed to be less of an impediment for the runners, particularly in light of the fact that the mercury hovered closer to zero only a few hours before the race kicked off at noon Sunday.

“It’s not the coldest that I’ve ever run in,” said Andrew Pietka, 27, of Amherst, who ran the race with his father, George, 58.

“It actually feels like 71 (degrees) once you start moving,” Andrew Pietka added.

Regardless, after the race, the runners retreated to the Bernard J. Kennedy Field House on the high school campus for heaping bowls of chilli and cheese to warm up.

According to National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Hibbert, it will be at least another week before temperatures rise above the freezing mark.

“It will be sort of a rollercoaster,” said Hibbert Sunday, describing the week ahead.

Temperatures were expected to dip from Sunday’s high in the low 20s to near zero, with a wind chill warning in effect overnight until about 7 a.m. Monday.

“There will be a warmup back into the 20s on Tuesday into early Wednesday, when the temperature will fall back down to single digits on Thursday, according to the weather bureau.

Then there’ll be a slower warmup into the 20s and on into Saturday, after which we’ll be breaking that freezing mark by moving into the lower 30s on Sunday,” Hibbert said.

To add to the roughly two inches of snow that fell Saturday, some light snow was forecast for Sunday across the Buffalo metro region and some lake-effect snow was anticipated along the shores of Lake Ontario.

Another two to three inches of snow is anticipated for late Tuesday into Wednesday, followed by the gradual warmup Thursday into Friday.

“Even though we’ll be at the freezing mark, the air above us will still be cold. So we may have another chance for stickier, wetter snow on Sunday. So there is not much opportunity to melt off what we’ve already got,” Hibbert added.

Meanwhile, mayoral spokesman Michael DeGeorge said Sunday that about 1,010 truck loads of snow have been hauled off city streets since Feb. 14. City crews and contractors have combined to remove the snow, with city crews having continued to haul away snow this past weekend. DeGeorge said crews will continue to focus on clearing narrow side streets in the city. Residents are being urged to follow parking regulations to assist in the plowing and snow removal effort.