That co-worker who often falls back on the small-talk staple of “Cold ’nuff for ya?” can perhaps get a pass from the cliché police this week.

Because it certainly is cold enough — for anyone.

The Arctic air that has been so persistent this winter season dropped the thermometer to below zero again the past couple of days, with wind chills adding to the bitter misery. The low recorded at the Olean Waste Water Treatment Plant early Tuesday morning was 5 degrees below zero — but with winds of 30 mph or more.

Many area school districts were closed Tuesday, not because of snowfall, but because of concerns about below-zero temperatures coupled with skin-endangering wind chills.

Yet, Olean residents can take small comfort in knowing that the low temperature Tuesday was nowhere near a record. That dubious distinction goes to Jan. 28, 1966, when the recorded low in the city was 13 degrees below zero.

More comfort can be taken by the fact that Jim Mitchell, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Buffalo, tells us that as winter’s go, 2013-14 just isn’t that bad. The past two winters were unusually mild, spoiling any of us who suffer during a tough Western New York winter.

Now, Mr. Mitchell says, we are simply experiencing a typical winter for the region, with a statistical lean toward the coldest 20 or so winters dating back to 1871. He points out that the winter of 1976-77 was arguably the coldest winter on record for Western New York. Followed up by the winter of 1977-78, it’s little wonder the news media of the time featured stories of scientists speculating on whether a new ice age was arriving.

Despite the cold of this week — and at other intervals so far this winter — there is no such ice age speculation today. 

Meanwhile, offices and other workplaces, classrooms and store aisles sound with a sort of broken chorus of coughing, sneezing and nose-blowing as so many of us suffer through various seasonal ailments. Officials at area hospitals say they have noted a spike in the number of flu cases, and they urge residents — and especially parents of children over the age of 6 months — to still consider getting a flu shot.

Folks also are urged to cover up when coughing or sneezing while also washing their hands as often as possible. Anyone feeling ill is urged to stay home.

Is relief from the cold weather and its attendant miseries coming? Groundhog Day is Sunday, which is Super Bowl Sunday as well, after which the cold grind of winter for so many bereft football fans really sets in.

Of course, the legend is that if Punsutawney Phil doesn’t see his shadow on Sunday, there will be an early spring. If he sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter.

What this supposedly means is that, even worst-case, winter will be over around March 16, which is actually a date most Western New York winter veterans could live with. But given the weather patterns this year, along with the understanding that cold and snow often lingers well past the official first day of spring (March 20) in this region, we’ve got a long way to go.

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