By JOY BROWN
and ERIC SCHAADT
How cold is it?
It’s so cold that Ohio Department of Transportation crews on Monday were putting additives in the diesel for snowplows to prevent the fuel from “gelling.”
It’s so cold that most places, including every school in Hancock County, plus Findlay and county government offices, are closed today for a second consecutive day.
It’s so cold that Findlay never experienced a chillier Jan. 6, according to city records. And another temperature record was broken early today.
Late Monday, the temperature dropped to 15 degrees below zero, according to the Findlay Water Pollution Control Center, which keeps the city’s weather records. That broke the city record for the date of 13 below zero, set in 1924.
Early today, the temperature was 14 below, breaking the record for Jan. 7, minus 10 in 1912.
The National Weather Service had predicted Findlay’s temperature could reach 19 below zero overnight. That would threaten the city’s all-time record low, 21 below, set on Jan. 13, 1913 and again on Feb. 20, 1929.
The new year’s “polar vortex” that descended on the region Sunday brought an ice coating followed by 7.5 inches of snow in Findlay, according to the Water Pollution Control Center, effectively halting business, government, schools and daily lives.
The storm also came with high winds, making driving, visibility, and road-clearing difficult on country roads and on Interstate 75.
And it brought wind chills so dangerous that body parts were susceptible to freezing within minutes of exposure.
Snowman-building on Sunday afternoon gave way to indoor hot chocolate on Monday as temperatures dove below zero.
By 6:15 a.m. Monday, Hancock County Sheriff Michael Heldman issued a Level 3 emergency, the highest level, which discourages travel by non-emergency workers. The weather forecast indicated that level could remain in effect for at least part of today.
As of Monday night, six area counties were under a Level 3 emergency, including Hancock, Wyandot, Henry, Putnam, Seneca and Wood.
Allen and Hardin counties under a Level 2 advisory. A weather advisory suggests that only those who need to travel should do so.
The Hancock County Sheriff’s Office reported late Monday a number of vehicles had skidded off roads in the county, and tow trucks responding to the accidents were having their own weather-related problems with their equipment.
In Henry County, tractor-trailers were getting stuck in snowdrifts on north-south state routes, according to that county’s sheriff’s department.
“People are getting stuck, drifting (snow on roads), ice on the roads,” lamented a dispatcher with the Wyandot County Sheriff’s Office.
But no serious accidents were reported by sheriff’s offices in the region.
The Findlay post of the State Highway Patrol reported many autos slid off roads, but only minor accidents occurred.
Findlay road crews were busy through the day Monday. Monday morning, 19 trucks were clearing city streets, said Mayor Lydia Mihalik. Workers focused on keeping main thoroughfares passable, but were hoping to have a 20-foot-wide path plowed down all residential streets by late Monday night, she said.
Paul Schmelzer, Findlay’s safety-service director, said four to six plows were still working on city streets Monday evening.
The city’s “heavy” plow crew, consisting of 15 to 19 plows, was to return to duty from 4 a.m. until noon today.
City crews also plan to remove the mounds of snow from the middle of Main Street tonight.
Sixteen plows from the Hancock County Engineer’s Office called it a day at 7 p.m. Monday, according to County Engineer Chris Long. Those crews were expected to return to the roadways at 4 a.m. today.
The Ohio Department of Transportation website reported 13 state plows were on duty Monday night on state and federal highways in Hancock County. State crews were to remain on duty overnight, focusing on north-south roads that are most affected by blowing snow.
Cold weather played havoc with the hydraulics and other equipment of some snowplows. Two city plows required maintenance, while one county plow was out of commission Monday.
Blowing and drifting snow also erased some snow-clearing efforts.
Universities in the region, including the University of Findlay, Owens Community College’s Findlay campus, Ohio Northern University, Bowling Green State University and the University of Toledo, planned to remain closed today, thereby extending long winter breaks.
The Findlay-Hancock County Public Library, the Arlington branch and the Bookmobile will all be closed today. The county’s Veterans Service Office also will remain closed today.
Meeting and activity postponements were common. Findlay City Council is now scheduled to meet at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, and a meeting about a proposed riparian corridor project along a portion of Lye Creek has been moved to 6 p.m. Thursday.
Arlington Mayor Ed Solt declared a snow emergency for his village Monday. Residents are asked to remove all vehicles from the streets so they can be plowed to ensure safe passage for emergency vehicles. Monday night’s council meeting was called off.
A Carey Council meeting also was canceled. Carey village offices, which were closed Monday, were expected reopen at noon today.
Hancock County Common Pleas Court grand jurors who were scheduled to meet today will now report at 9 a.m. Thursday.
The Findlay Municipal Court also is closed today, and those with pending cases should call 419-424-7141 on Thursday to be rescheduled.
Hancock-Wood Electric Cooperative issued a “peak demand alert” for 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. today because of the cold temperatures. The utility, which has customers in parts of Hancock, Wood, Allen, Erie, Hardin, Henry, Putnam, Seneca and Wyandot counties, is asking residents to reduce electricity use during that period.
Neither the Blanchard Valley Hospital nor the Bluffton Hospital emergency rooms treated anyone Monday for weather-related ailments, said Ruth Shade, director of critical care services for Blanchard Valley Health System. However, the hospital’s clinic, Physicians Plus, treated a few patients on Monday for minor fall injuries, Shade said.
She said the emergency room at Blanchard Valley Hospital is prepared to help anyone who needs care because of the frigid weather.
“We have warming equipment and procedures in place to treat conditions such as hypothermia and frostbite that come with this extremely cold weather,” she said.
Shade said she urges everyone to stay inside if possible, especially the young and elderly.
Government and safety personnel also are urging residents to stay indoors if possible.
The National Weather Service’s wind chill warning will remain in effect until 9 a.m. Wednesday, fueled by gusts reaching up to 32 mph.
“Widespread blowing snow” was expected overnight and continuing into early Wednesday morning. Wind chill values could reach negative 44 degrees today, the weather service predicted.
Relatively warmer weather is predicted for Wednesday, when a high of 23 degrees is predicted.
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