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Nation braces for a big chill

ALBANY HERALD EDITORIAL: Nature is dangerous enough without people making it worse

As we brace for what looks to be the coldest days so far of the winter — lows in Albany are predicted to dip to the low to mid-20s for at least four of a six-day stretch starting today, according to the forecasters at Fox 31 — we can take some comfort in knowing it could be worse. A lot worse.

A strong winter storm, one that extends from the Mississippi Valley to the East Coast, is bearing down on Americans in the more northern states, bringing with it a cold blast that is life-threatening. Snow was already falling and more than a foot of the white stuff was expected to hit places like Boston.

Lows were expected to be 20-30 degrees below normal and some records will likely be broken today. On Wednesday, Reuters News Service reported, the low temperature in the 48 contiguous states was a frigid 43 degrees below zero in a community named Embarrass, Minn. Wind chills in some areas of the Northeast were expected to be in the 25 degrees below zero range.

More than bone-chilling cold, the arctic air-driven storm is the type that very well could claim many lives.

As the conditions worsen, more flights are expected to be delayed or canceled — more than 4,500 had already been impacted by Thursday — schools and many businesses were shutting down and drivers were finding the roadways increasingly hazardous, not entirely because of the weather.

Reuters quoted an individual named Paul Brown, a construction manager from the Chicago area, who said he opted to take the train to work Thursday rather than chance driving to work, at least partly because of the behavior of those who he would share the road with.

“Sometimes, I wonder if they have a death wish,” he said. “Down south, you get an inch of snow and it paralyzes the whole town. Here, people get in the left lane and just drive.”

Indeed, in our area the rare occurrence of snow is something that is celebrated.

But Mr. Brown’s observation holds true in a number of ways. Even lows in the mid-20s can be dangerous when it comes to exposure, and people need to ensure they don’t do anything to exacerbate the problem. Being careful with heaters, particularly small electrical ones that likely will come into use in our area over the coming days and months, is particularly important. Placed too close to combustible material and left unattended, they can result in the loss of property and life.

We hope that our fellow Americans who will feel the brunt of this storm come out in good shape with a minimum of suffering. We also hope that those in our more immediate area will take care and be alert as they try to stay warm.

Mother Nature can be formidable enough without adding to the problem ourselves.

— The Albany Herald Editorial Board