PDT Staff Writer
Some area institutions took the unusual step of cancelling for two days when they saw the forecast was for sub-freezing temperatures and even colder wind chill warnings. Among them was the New Boston School District.
“We’re the only district in Scioto County that doesn’t bus high school kids,” New Boston Superintendent of Schools Mike Staggs said. “When (my) dad was superintendent here in the seventies, we didn’t bus high school kids and we never have. Some of our kids walk all the way from the Portsmouth/New Boston line to school every day. So wind chill for us is much more significant than any other district I’ve ever been in.”
Staggs said with minus 27 wind chill in Monday’s forecast and worse temperatures forecast for Tuesday, he made the decision not to expose New Boston’s students.
“I’m not about to have those kids get frostbitten on the way to school,” Staggs said. “I’m not going to have that. We value our children so much. We would never put them in danger.
Most all other schools in the region closed for Monday.
“Those schools cancelling was a wise thing,” Scioto County Emergency Management Agency Director Kim Carver said. “I do believe there is an awful lot of illness out there right now. And then putting kids that are borderline sick out there waiting for a school bus in extreme cold conditions is bad.”
Frostbite is a condition where tissue such as skin is damaged, and in some cases destroyed, due to exposure to extreme cold. The Wolfram/Alpha website has a tool that allows you to quickly compute how long your skin can be exposed to such weather conditions before becoming susceptible to frostbite.
A simply query of the term “frostbite” in Wolfram-Alpha will bring up the calculator. You can update the default values for temperature and wind speed with the ones for your area. According to some weather services, when wind chills drop to the levels forecast for our region, frostbite can set in in less than five minutes.
Meanwhile the Scioto County Commissioners will again delay opening the courthouse until 10 a.m. due to extreme winter weather forecast by the National Weather Service. Flash freeze of roadways is possible with the coldest air in 20 years moving in. Dangerous windchill temperatures will continue to pose vehicle issues and make the morning commutes longer for employees. Carver said employees having issues getting into work should contact their supervisors. A Windchill Warning is in effect until Tuesday 5 p.m.
“A lot of employers, including the County Commissioners, were a little bit proactive in going ahead and dealaying operations a couple of hours in the morning,” Carver said. “It has given employees at the court house a little extra time to thaw their vehicles out, to get their cars jumped if they don’t start, giving them extra time for the commute into work to tropubleshoot any issues the cold weather is posing.”
Carver said on Monday, her office was in the process of coordinating with other agencies for any contingency.
“We’re working with the American Red Cross and the health department for a push of public information regarding extreme cold weather safety,” Carver said. “Also, in the event that we would lose power, looking ahead to have shelter with backup power generators available so that we could, at the very least, those in the elderly population could get to a heated area.”
Carver said she is happy to see everyone taking precautionary measures. Lieutenant Mark Ferreira of the Salvation Army said the local facility will remain open as a heat shelter through tonight.
“I think the evidence of empty store shelves was that people got out and got some stock for their homes to make it through a few days, and were planning if they didn’t have a job to ride it out,” Carver said. “The other thing that is always the white elephant in the room is the alternative heating devices that people are using right now. And you can just say a prayer that everything is safe for people in our community during cold spells like this because it can be a very dangerous time.”
For Scioto County Engineer Craig Opperman and Deputy Engineer Adam Carroll, Monday meant bundling up in the frigid temperatures to take on a traffic light problem at Ohio River Road and Center Street in Wheelersburg.
“The signal was on flash, which meant something was going on with the controller,” Opperman said. “We sent the usual guys out here, they did the usual things and couldn’t get it reset. So we had to come out and take a look at it and figure out exactly what was going on with it. We analyzed the controller which is the most advanced signal controller we have, and once we figured out what was wrong, we fixed it.” Opperman said it is possible the current temperatures will break a 100 year old record.
Ohioans are being urged to take preventive action against the upcoming extreme cold weather conditions by the Ohio Emergency Management Agency and the Ohio Department of Health. The ODH says by preparing your home and car in advance for winter emergencies, and by observing safety precautions during times of extremely cold weather, you can reduce the risk of weather-related health problems.
The Ohio Emergency Management Agency has already contacted all local partners and is ready to assist in the event of any power outages. Nurse Bobbi Bratchett said If anyone has a health condition or simply a health question, they can contact the Portsmouth City Health Department at 740-354-8919. The health clinic also has an evening clinic each month for easier access and to better serve the community.
Ohioans are also being urged to check on their neighbors as temperatures across much of the state dip into the negative double-digits. Ohioans should get in touch with friends, family and loved ones, and help spread the word about how to stay safe in the extreme cold.
The wind chill warning remains in effect until 5 p.m. today. Arctic air will settle over the region through this evening. Wind Chill readings will be as low as 33 below, leading to hazardous travel condition due to reduced visibilities and black ice on roadways. The frigid conditions will be dangerous to those venturing outside.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.