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Scenes from a Catskills cold snap

Above: Even in subzero weather, Roxbury looks picture-perfect. Photo taken Wednesday at sunset by Greg Henderson of the Roxbury Motel.

Above: It's a nippy 4.1 degrees right now on Belleayre Mountain, but the freshly-groomed corduroy looks pretty inviting. Photo posted today on Belleayre's Facebook page

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Cold enough for ice circles

See video

Meet the elusive ice circle: An unusual ice formation that occurs on slow-moving water during intense cold weather. In the video above, posted today by the folks at the Woodstock Inn On The Millstream, a broad ice circle rotates slowly in the Millstream's gentle flow.

Another ice circle was spotted recently on the Esopus Creek by John Crews, who shared the photo with Hudson Valley Weather.

A couple of years ago, Gary Lane, a river guide on Idaho's Salmon River, snapped a beautiful photo of an ice circle that went viral on the internet. Since then, he's become something of an expert on the phenomenon. In a news article about his famous photo, Lane explains  Read more

NY doubles down on high-tech weather forecasting

Meteorologist Mitch Gilt of the National Weather Service measures snowfall in Binghamton after a recent storm. Photo from NWS Binghamton's Facebook page.

After three major storms in three years, New Yorkers are investing heavily in high-tech weather forecasting. 

In his proposed budget for 2014-2015, released on Tuesday, Jan. 21, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a plan to set aside $15 million of federal aid earmarked for Hurricane Sandy to build a "state-of-the-art weather detection system" that will create scores of new weather stations throughout the state. From the governor's budget proposal:

The system will provide real-time warnings of local extreme weather and flood conditions, and identify threats to communities, roads, bridges and the electric system. Data will be available for use in predictive modeling and early warnings to prevent loss of life and property. The number of weather stations will be increased from the current 27 to over 100, creating a highly sophisticated real-time weather reporting network that will accelerate and improve information sharing, thereby assisting emergency responders in responding to extreme weather events. 

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection, which oversees the city's upstate reservoirs, has also been investing heavily in weather technology lately. The DEP needs accurate weather data -- especially streamflow data -- to manage more than a billion gallons a day flowing through the city's water system. 

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The commissioner grew carrots

Above: New York State Agricultural Society President Diane Held congratulates Schoharie County farmer Richard Ball, recently appointed as New York State's new Commissioner of Agriculture, at the group's 2014 forum on New York agriculture. Photo from the New York State Agricultural Society's Facebook page.

Look through the roster of New York State's top agricultural officials, and you might notice they've got something in common: Cows.   Read more

Return of the polar vortex

Don't go out there, kitty. Photo taken in Andes over the weekend by Mark Zilberman; shared in the Watershed Post's Flickr group pool.

It's baaa-aaaaack: The polar vortex, a whirling mass of low-pressure frigid air that usually has the decency to stay far north of us, is dipping down south again this week to pay the Northeast and Midwest another visit.   Read more

Catskills under weekend flood watch; Ashokan releases underway

Above: A running spigot at Hubbell Bros. in the Delaware County town of Middletown gets the polar vortex treatment. Photo taken on Wednesday by Watershed Post reader Burr Hubbell, who writes, "The water's still running inside that icicle thingy. It's just frozen on the outside."

The Northeast is thawing out this weekend, after several days of intense subzero cold. In the Catskills and across a wide area of upstate New York, a combination of rain in the forecast and melting snow and ice from rapidly-warming temperatures has the region under flood watch from Saturday afternoon to Sunday evening.   Read more

Boiceville's Parete seizes Ulster Legislature chair with GOP help

Above: "This is a life expectancy, folks," says John Parete, the new chairman of the Ulster County Legislature, holding up a tailor's tape measure. "Well, on the average, that's what I got left. And I'm not going to spend one minute anymore on partisan politics or bickering.” Video shot by the Daily Freeman's Patricia Doxsey at a January 7 meeting of the Ulster County Legislature. 

John Parete, a longtime Ulster County Democratic operative, allied himself with 10 Republicans and two rogue Democrats to seize the chairmanship of the Ulster County Legislature last night in a 13-10 vote, according to the Daily Freeman and the Times Herald-Record

Parete's unlikely bi-partisan coalition torpedoed the plan of the rest of the chamber's Democrats, who regained a majority in the legislature this November after being the minority for years, to install Democrat Hector Rodriguez of New Paltz as chairman

A similar cross-party coup happened in the county legislature in 1999, according to the Daily Freeman:

In 1999, [Phil] Sinagra, R-Hurley, was poised to be elected chairman of the Legislature, but Democrats joined forces with some Republicans to stage an 11th-hour coup, resulting in the election of Daniel Alfonso, R-Highland, as chairman.

This time, the power play put a Catskills local in charge.  Read more

Power outages strike in Woodstock and Olive

Above: Screenshot from Central Hudson's outage map showing widespread power outages in the Ulster County towns of Woodstock and Olive. 

On Tuesday evening, with temperatures in the single digits and subzero wind chills, Central Hudson was reporting widespread power outages in the Ulster County towns of Woodstock and Olive. 

As of around 10 p.m., 1,841 Central Hudson customers were without power: 1,073 in Woodstock, 741 in Olive, 23 in Hurley and four in Denning.

According to the Central Hudson website, the Woodstock and Olive outages were expected to be resolved by 11:30 p.m. No restoration time was listed for the Hurley or Denning outages.

Some outages also occurred in the area early Tuesday morning and throughout the day, according to reports on social media. Information on the cause of the outages was not immediately available.  Read more

Cold snap taking a toll on power grid, officials say

Don't touch that dial (til 10 p.m.). Closeup photo of washing machine control panel by Flickr user Chris Dillon; published under Creative Commons license

Officials at the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO), the nonprofit company that manages and monitors New York State's complex electrical power system, are worried that abnormally cold temperatures may take a toll on the electrical grid.   Read more

Polar vortex heads for the Catskills (with liveblog)

Above: A chilly early-morning scene in the Schoharie County town of Esperance, taken Sunday morning by Flickr user A Man Called ACME. It's about to get chillier, as a front of Arctic air sends temperatures plunging across the Northeast. Photo shared in the Watershed Post's Flickr group pool

Forget "Hercules": This week's bitter cold spell, setting in Monday and continuing until Wednesday, is set to eclipse last week's brief bout of subzero temperatures. A frigid front of Arctic air dubbed the "polar vortex" already has the Midwest in its icy grip, and by nightfall, will send temperatures plunging in the Northeast as well. 

Local forecasters at the National Weather Service in Binghamton are predicting that temperatures Monday night and Tuesday could be the coldest in a decade or more. In a detailed briefing issued Monday morning, NWS forecasters warned that Tuesday would be the coldest day of the cold snap, with temperatures down to 10 below zero or lower and wind chills of up to 30 to 35 below zero in their forecast area, which extends to the western Catskills. 

To the east, the National Weather Service's Albany station warned that the Hudson Valley and eastern Catskills -- which warmed up to the 40s and 50s on Monday -- would drop back below freezing on Monday afternoon

By midnight Monday, the entire Catskills region will be under either a wind chill advisory (Schoharie County) or a more serious wind chill warning (Delaware and Sullivan counties, Greene County and Ulster County).

With temperatures this low, power outages could be dangerous for those without backup generators or other heat sources. During last week's subzero cold snap, problems with a NYSEG substation transformer left over 4,000 homes in Delaware County without power for a few hours -- long enough to freeze pipes, for some. A spokesman for the utility said NYSEG workers are ready to respond quickly if another power outage occurs.

Generator safety is especially vital in cold weather. In November of 2012, two elderly Shokan residents died in their home after a power outage, when their gasoline-powered generator filled their house with carbon monoxide.

We're tracking the local impacts of the cold front in real time on Storify. Let us know of any road accidents, power outages or other issues in your neighborhood at editor@watershedpost.com, and we'll post them to the liveblog below. (We'll gladly share your gorgeous ice pictures, too.) The latest updates appear at the top of the liveblog.