Upstate NY winter weather tips

jbj117(6b)November 9, 2004

I hope no one minds my barging into this forum to ask for advice on surviving winters in upstate NY. While trying to prepare for the move, the first resource I thought of was this site. In the local forum, we've had folks pop in from other areas to ask for similar help, so I hoped to find an accomodating soul in your forum. Anyway, this Tennessee gardner will be transplanted in mid-December, and am clueless as to what to expect, other than very cold and lots of snow -- neither of which I've had much experience with. We shut down schools if we get flurries with no accumulation! It's pandemonium when we actually get a few inches. So, I need help. What kind of automobiles are best for the area? Any special batteries or oils needed for sub-zero weather starts? How do you dig an automobile out of 3-4' snow banks (yeah, I know...a big show shovel!)?? I'll be in a corporate apartment, so no garage -- does it help to cover your car, or at least windshield with anything to make snow removal easier, or is that a joke? Best kind of gloves, boots, coats, insulated long underwear, etc? Then there's the matter of my poor critters -- they're going to be in major shock! I'm not even sure what else to ask, so any contributions anyone is willing to offer about the uniqueness of winter living in the Syracuse/Utica area, would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks -- Jennifer

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chris_ont(5a Ont)

You have too many thoughts, JB! :)
I think your move to the wild white north is like when you're new to gardening. At first you fuss and worry over every sprig and seedling and later on you crop and move and amend like you were born to garden.

Here are some thoughts: Don't worry about oil or windshield fluid or gas. Like buying hardy plants at your local nursery, what you buy locally for your car is meant for local weather.

Some folks buy special winter tires used only in cold weather. I do, because I drive a fair bit to work (with way too many greenhouses and nurseries along the way..)

Digging your car and driveway out: make sure you're physically up to it or hire someone. Great exercise but it's easy to overdo it. I like the ergonomic shovel with the big bend in the handle. The moment you finish shovelling your driveway, the city plow will come along and build a plow-berg along the street and you get to start over again.
If your condo-people do these things you don't need anything more than a good scraper and brush. Your car would have to be BURIED for you to have to dig it out with a shovel and, in spite of tales told around the campfire in Tennessee, that only happens a few times each winter :)

You'd be surprised how much snow you can actually drive over to move your car (plow-bergs excepted - NEVER try to jump one of those)
When I lived in an apartment I kept a small, collapsible shovel in the trunk. Used it twice, once for trying to dislodge my car off a plow-berg.

My car's been parked outside in all weather condition for years. Never once had trouble starting it.

Covering the windshield is something invented by people who sell windshield covers - it's generally a pain since you then have a frozen, wet windshield cover that you need to leave somewhere. We use ice scrapers. Get the kind with a brush on one end, rather than a squeegee. Remember to clean off ALL windows, every time. Snow and ice creates nasty blind spots.

Let car warm up for a few minutes before driving off. Warm the engine, not the interior - wear a coat if you're cold :) Any more than a few minutes of idling is a waste and environmentally unsound.

Your car will be fine. But what about you? Be sure to find a snowy, slushy, icy and empty parking lot and PRACTICE your winter driving.

Your critters will have a blast. They'll know when to come in from the cold. Don't leave outside overnight.

There are no best kind of winter clothing. That's like asking what the best plant is for your garden. You're going to be cold - dress in whatever way you need to stay warm.
Do get one of those car floormats that keep your trouser cuffs from soaking in all the snow and salt that'll run off your boots.

I'm a bit north of Syracuse but I'm sure the winters are relatively balmy, compared to 'true' northern regions. Sub-zero, unless you're talking in Celcius, isn't really the norm. Below freezing, sure!

Embrace it! Snow is fun, cold can be bracing. You can use snow as mulch in the garden! Get a huge parka (people will snicker, but you need to acclimatize!) build a snowman, skate, have snowball fights and roll around in it. No sense fighting it (this is actually more of a pep talk for myself....)


    Bookmark   November 10, 2004 at 1:03PM
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Debbie_N_Ontario(zone 2)

I would watch your animals pads. I don't know what kind of animals u have but if u see your dog lifting up his paws it means they are cold or have gotten burnt from salt. Have a warm foot bath torinse his paws off if he gets salt on them, also check in between the pads to make sure no snow is stuck in there, they don't like that. Ice can really cut up a dog's pads too, some people put booties on their dogs for this reason.

Carry a bag of sand, or kitty litter (non clumping kind),in your trunk in case u do happen to get stuck, it will help get a bit more traction if u put some in front of and behind your wheels. If u do get stuck do NOT spin your tires, that will just get u deeper or make ice, rock the car, go forward then reverse and repeat until u get out, but don't give it too much gas.

Umm also in your back seat carry a little emergency kit, just in case u get stranded. Carry a Candle and matches, the candle will stop u from freezing to death if for some reason u are stranded, also throw in an extra hat, pr of socks, mitts, sweater. some of those hot pads that when broken open they warm up, can be used in boots and mitts etc, again to keep just in case one day u get stranded.

I'm not from your area but people put those things in their cars up here and also did when I lived in southern Ontario.

And yes, go and practise controlling your skids in an EMPTY parking lot. Make sure it's pretty empty though. *L*


    Bookmark   November 11, 2004 at 12:27AM
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Syracuse is the snow capital of New York State after Buffalo, so be prepared. (Lake effect snow) I lived there for 4 years while in college. We had snow in May.

Drive a 4wd car. Subarus are very popular in the northeast. Get the winter package with it that has heated seats and defrosting wipers and side mirrors.

In the back of my car I keep a little snow shovel, a scraper and a long handled brush. I have all-weather tires. I use a wire rimmed teflon windshield cover that folds up. It is wonderful for not having to scrape your window every frosty morning. Do not put it on a wet window or you'll be scraping teflon off. Not good for snow either. You'll get the hang.

You just may have to shovel yourself out of a few feet of snow many times a year if you're parked outdoors. Ask the neighbors what they do. You can pay kids to do it for you. They like the money and are usually walking around with shovels looking for work. Personally, we own about 4 kinds of shovels for different shoveling jobs, but we own a house. They're all tools. Find them at the local stores by the hundreds. Don't lift heavy loads of snow or you'll do major damage to your body. Take it slowly and enjoy the brisk air.

You will need a few kinds of coats because you are moving to a 4 season area. Check the LL Bean catalog (free)for ideas. They cater to northeastern people. Or wait till you move here and check out the local stores for bargains.

A good pair of warm, waterproof boots is a necessity. Again, buy them in Syracuse. Scarves, warm hats, and insulated gloves are a must, too.

The worst part of winter in Syracuse is the gray days, so make sure you have things in your apartment to keep you happy. Get out in the sunshine everyday, even on your lunch hour, so you don't get cabin fever. Try to go places and meet people so you have some friends to party with during the cold nights. Get some indoor hobbies.

It's an adjustment, but it can be done if you go with the right attitude. Being in a condo, you will have tons of helpful folks around to help you out, so don't worry. It;s a big city. There is so much to do in Syracuse, culture-wise, and you are a stone's throw from the beautiful Finger Lakes and Niagara Falls. Enjoy!

    Bookmark   November 14, 2004 at 8:10PM
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OOPS! Buffalo isn't as snowy as its short term memory failed me...a friend from there told me that a few months ago. But Syracuse is! I bet their weather today is balmy though. LOL.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2004 at 4:14PM
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The snowfall in Syracuse is minor compared to some other northern areas of NY State. I have lived in the city of Syracuse as well as a northern suburb. Now, I live farther north of Syracuse in Fulton and I can tell ya any city or town in Oswego county will beat out any city or town in Onondaga county any year. Like my brother says....we measure snowfall in feet, not inches. And my favorite saying is...I Live In A SnowGlobe !!!

As a gift several years ago my Mom had an automatic car starter installed in my van. I LOVE being able to push the button from inside my cozy house and have my van toasty warm when I go outside.

Be sure you get some rock salt/ice melt for your steps.
Get a battery operated radio and/or TV.
Get a couple of battery operated lanterns. I purchased a couple of Coleman brand 2 years ago and they are a god-send. These are sooo much safer than using candles during a blackout.
Stock up on batteries.
If you don't already have one, get a manual can opener.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2004 at 8:47PM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

Hello, I'm from western lower Michigan, but I used to live in the Upper Peninsula, so I know about winter weather. Just to reiterate what the other wise peaple have said; keep a flashlight (so hte wind can't blow it out like a candle), scraper, shovel, kitty litter (especially for ice),and a blanket in your car. I've never had to use any of these except the kitty litter, but they come in very handy if you come across someone else whose gotten into trouble. As far as diving, DON'T FOLLOW TOO CLOSE and SLOW DOWN in bad weather. Be especially careful during the first few snows of the year when others, and you, are trying to remember their snow driving skills. The snow and ice will be worse on less traveled roads, since the snow plows do them last. Watch the weather forcasts, and if a storm is predicted, go out to the store for emergency supplies BEFORE the snow starts and the shelves are empty. Better yet, just keep your cupboards generously stocked so you can always make it a day or two without having to go out. Always have a warm hat handy. You tend to lose the majority of your body heat through the top of your head, and ears and noses get cold the fastest.
I could go on all day. In truth, all these preparations are only neccessary once or twice a season, depending on how much travel you do. Most of the winter the roads will be dry and clear or at least passable by even a novice snow driver. Get a coat long enough to cover your rear end when you sit down in the car, especially if you have vinyl seats. Enjoy the snow. The phrase "winter wonderland" is very appropriate.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2004 at 5:23PM
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