Enough! Arctic temps finish out January, close schools, cancel events

By Randa Wagner

January 28, 2014

As if the punishment dealt North Central Ohio in early January wasn’t enough, arctic temperatures returned to deliver a final blow for the past week, cancelling schools, church services and some businesses.

As bad as it was, it could have been worse. Emergency services received no calls for propane outages, no power outages were reported, and stores were not completely emptied of groceries. Perhaps it was just too cold for most people to get into trouble.

“We have had one home run out of propane that we know of, but DP Petroleum was able to get them a 40 percent filling,” said Morrow County Emergency Management Director Joe Edwards on Monday. “If there is going to be any problems, I would suspect it will be over the next few days. The Red Cross has four warming stations identified, should we need them, but we anticipate that most people will probably go to other relatives.”

He said water lines and animals are the other concern for home owners.

“Frozen water lines means outside animals aren’t getting water unless it’s hand carried,” he explained. “Drifting snow, along with subzero temps, mean snow packs become hard like rock and presents a major concern for plow drivers moving drifts.”

Mt. Gilead Fire Chief Greg Young said calls were about average in spite of the weather. No major fires; mostly accidents, he said.

“I’d like to think people are smart enough to slow down a little and be careful when it gets nasty,” Young said. “It really is dangerous.”

Some weren’t so smart, though. Morrow County Sheriff Steve Brenneman said their main issue was people going out and trying to drive through areas that were drifted over.

“They are getting stuck and then the plows can’t get through,” he said Monday. “They also need to slow down. People are spinning off the road because they lose control on the slick roads. During a Level 2, the roads are hazardous and they should not be out unless they absolutely need to. If they are out, they need to take appropriate precautions and use common sense. They are not going to be able to drive through 3-4 foot drifts! The County Highway Department is having a hard time on some roads getting through because of the cars that are stuck.”

Stuck is what the local EMS workers were trying to avoid on emergency calls.

911 Supervisor Jeff Sparks said trying to get in driveways that haven’t been plowed and use sidewalks that haven’t been shoveled is a big problem.

“It’s very difficult to get our cot in and out of there,” Sparks said. “We don’t want the patient to walk from the house.”

To make calls easier for the EMS, the Mt. Gilead Fire Department has been responding to each call with a 4WD Brush Truck, to help clear a place for the squad.

During the severe weather, Sparks said he didn’t necessarily see an increase in medical calls but there was about a 50 percent increase in motor vehicle accidents.

“The past week has been very busy,” he noted. “We’ve taken a lot of MVAs, and the difficulty is keeping the patient warm. That’s one of the toughest things when it’s this cold.”

Speaking of cold, Chief Young said the big problem with fighting fires in these temperatures is hypothermia and worrying about someone falling on ice. Hoses freeze, trucks can freeze, and firefighters have to wear more clothes, which inhibits movement. More firefighters are needed on the scene so they can work in rotation to warm up those that are cold.

The Mt. Gilead Fire Department was lucky this time. ‘A chimney fire or two that didn’t turn out to be anything’ was the extent of their fire calls during this last cold snap.

Relief is in sight, however. Thursday should be partly sunny with a high of 27 and Saturday may see 31 degrees. Perhaps February will be kinder to Ohio than January was.