'Dangerous' conditions predicted for this week

Zoe Greszler • Jan 29, 2019 at 2:00 AM

As the frigid cold starts to set in, preparations are being made by local residents, school districts and pet owners alike. 

On Wednesday, the temperature might not go above zero degrees for the entire day — the first time that will have happened since January 1994. The forecasted range is minus 14 to minus 4 — temperatures which could break local records by several degrees. It will be the coldest the area has felt since February 2015.

On top of those already low temperatures, winds of 10 to 20 mph are expected across the area with gusts to 30 mph, allowing for wind chills of 25 to 35 degrees below zero. Some spots in northwest Ohio could get as cold as 40 below. This could create life-threatening cold conditions.

Because of this, the National Weather Service has issued a wind chill watch for Huron County and the surrounding areas that will be in effect from this evening through Thursday afternoon.


Running out of calamity days

With such dangerous conditions, area school districts are planning on taking the proper precautions.

Both Edison and Monroeville school officials said they intend to take the proper precautions and cancel classes if the forecast proves true.

“But we’ll wait to look at it a little more as time draws near,” said Edison’s superintendent, Tom Roth.

Monroeville Local Schools Superintendent Ralph Moore agreed, adding the school likes to err on the side of caution. However, Ohio weather can be “unpredictable.”

Because parent-teacher conferences already were scheduled for Wednesday, Monroeville elementary and middle school students already won’t be reporting to school. Moore said if classes need to be cancelled at the high school level, teachers will hold a work day, working on department things and to be available to any parents who wish to stop in.

“Thursday we’ll just have to wait and see what it holds,” he said. “If there are frostbite warnings out, we’re talking temperatures like minus 16, minus 17 with the windchills — we have kids (who) walk and we actually still have kids (who) ride their bikes to school or that are standing on the roadside in the morning waiting for the buses — that’s too cold for them. We would not go to school if there’s a chance of frostbite.”

Moore said the district still intends to hold the conferences because it realizes some parents had to arrange special circumstances with their secular jobs and for child care.

Edison High School has used two of its allotted five calamity days, while the lower grade levels have used three. That means the schools have three and two snow days left, respectively, before students would begin using blizzard bags.

The Eagles don’t use blizzard bags, preferring instead the “quality education” that comes from being in the classroom, Moore said earlier. Monroeville has used four days on all levels, meaning if classes are cancelled Thursday, all of the calamity days will be used up. Additional school days then will be tacked onto the end of the year if any more inclimate weather does occur.

“And this is still pretty early in the winter season,” Moore said. “We still have the last few days of January left, plus the whole month of February to get through and anything else the weather holds in store.”

He said local superintendents have “received a lot of information to make the best decision possible.” The superintendents said they will collaborate and discuss their decisions and if it’s still “a no-brainer” that the forecast will remain the same, districts most likely will cancel classes tonight, rather than waiting until the morning.

Norwalk High School has used three calamity days, while all other four schools in the district have used four.


Prevent frostbite

Dr. John Bailey, a burn surgeon at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, said beyond “common sense” actions such as wearing proper clothing, there are few things local residents should be aware of and keep in mind.

“The danger is that a cold injury just like a heat injury,” he said. “The degree of the injury really depends on how cold is it and how long are you exposed to it.”

Bailey advised residents avoid going outside at all unless necessary. Another danger he said could present itself with any of those possible necessary tasks, such as caring for farm animals or shoveling the snow.

“With temperatures of 5 degrees or below, it becomes very dangerous for bare skin to come in contact with any metal, like you might use a snow shovel or grain shovel,” Bailey said. “Bare skin on metal can develop damage in a matter of seconds. ... May have done just fine when it was 30 degrees out, but it’s much more dangerous when you reach 5 degree or below.”

If frostbite if suspected, time is of the essence. 

“Time is tissue. Just like a heart attack or a stroke, you need to get blood flow started,” Bailey said.

The doctor also said in case travel is necessary, drivers should check their cold weather kits. He recommended making sure vehicles have a blanket, mittens, a hat and other necessary things to keep warm in case of a break down.


Cold weather car care

Drivers can help minimize the possibility of a break down in the first place by taking proper care of their vehicle, Reed Automotive mechanic Joel Adkins said.

Adkins said it’s best to park vehicles in an enclosed location, such as a garage, if possible. If a garage isn’t available, he recommended parking out of the wind, or at least angling the car in such a way that the front end with the battery is out of the wind as much as possible.  

Once the cold hits, Adkins said there isn’t much that can be done if a battery stalls. Instead, regular car maintenance, including regular battery checks, are important. 

“We have a considerable amount of customers (who) come in and replace their battery before it’s totally bad,” Adkins said. “At first I asked them why, because it’s still working. But they would say, ‘But it’s on its way out and it’ll happen at the most inconvenient time, when it’s cold out and I’d have to get it towed.’ I didn’t really think of that at the time. ... I’d really recommend replacing it before it completely dies.”

Adkins offered these others tips as well:

• Make sure your vehicle has proper maintenance and oil changes.
• Replace the battery if it isn’t four years or newer.
• If you’re going to start your car, warm it up. You should probably run it for a length of time because of the amount of energy it takes to start the car up and so your alternator has a chance to charge it back up.
• Shut off the accessory energy users — such as the radio, inside lights and headlights — before starting your car. It’ll take less energy. Then you can turn them back on after your vehicle has a chance to warm up. 
• Buy a quality battery and replace it before it goes bad because everything in your car is electronic and using the battery. If the battery runs below 9V, everything will shut off.
* Make sure you’re good on antifreeze. Typically it’s good for 10 years or 150,000 miles.
• Let your vehicle heat up before you drive. The fluids are going to be extremely thick. At 10 below zero, they’re not even going to hardly want to move. And then when it is running down the road, it’s trying to lubricate everything and you’re going to cause damage.


Keep warm

Even more important than keeping your car in good shape is making sure to keep your house warm.

A Norwalk resident and senior service technician at Hartland-Wilkes, Larry Flesher said the heating and air-conditioning (HVAC) business hasn’t seen a large influx in calls for broken heaters. Instead he said most of the calls are simple fixes that most people can prevent.

“We’re not so much getting heat calls. It’s more because people are failing to do their maintenance,” he said. 

Flesher said proper furnace maintenance is fast and easy. He recommended residents keep up with it before frigid conditions make it more difficult. 

“If they have a high-efficiency furnace, they need to make sure the vent is clear,” Flesher said. “The outside could build up with ice or snow. And the other big thing is to change the filter.”

Not only will doing so prevent the heat source from shutting down, but it will allow the furnace to emit more heat and have better air flow. 

“Plus it saves them money,” Flesher said. “A lot of times we come and the only thing wrong with the furnace is the filter’s plugged.”

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