Dripping wet and shivering, hundreds of people made mad dashes from the Maumee River’s shore to their waiting cars.
Their hair was ice-encrusted, their skin turned pink from the cold.
Most of them, though, enjoyed their experience at the 85th annual Polar Plunge at Waterville’s Memorial Park.
It’s just one of those seemingly odd-yet-inspirational events in northwest Ohio that has drawn a loyal following. Those who show up — freezing temperatures or not — accept the fact the fickle nature of northwest Ohio’s weather every New Year’s Day doesn’t necessarily come down in their favor.
This year’s event was wickedly cold enough to test the mettle of participants, coming in on the heels of a snowstorm as temperatures themselves plunged. But that didn’t stop an estimated 300 people from jumping into the river, even if it were just for a quick dip.
“I’m having a great time,” said Bob Scott, 59, an iron worker from Luckey, Ohio.
Mr. Scott said he stayed in the freezing waters only “long enough to make sure all my buddies were out.”
He’s one of the hardy souls, having taken the plunge 22 times.
He said Wednesday’s wade into the river was the second-coldest he’s experienced. Participants estimated the waters to be about 30-32 degrees.
The ceremonial plunge serves the dual purpose of honoring its founder, the late Herb Mericle, and in providing a jolt of adrenalin to people who see New Year’s as a chance for a fresh start.
Mr. Mericle began taking the dip in 1929, each year at precisely 2:30 p.m., to mark the date and time of his wedding.
His last plunge was in 2002, after which he was sidelined by health issues. He died in 2008.
The National Weather Service’s forecast for today contains a statement as definitive as any Americans ever get from their government: A 100 percent guarantee of more snow.
Most of the snow — likely not more than 2 inches — should arrive before 1 p.m.
Today’s high is not expected to top 15 degrees, but the wind chill — a combination of wind and temperature — is expected to feel like minus-5 degrees at times.
The National Weather Service calls for conditions to be “blustery,” with a northeast wind of 17 to 21 mph.
The wind chill could drop as low as minus-16 late today. The high Friday is expected to be only 12 degrees.
Saturday and Sunday will have slightly warmer daytime temperatures, at or near 30 degrees, with at least a 50 percent chance of snow at some point each day, the weather service’s Web site states.
Bowling Green Safety Director John Fawcett has declared a snow emergency; all cars left on designated snow streets in the town are subject to being towed.
The Ohio Department of Transportation said it was calling in more crews to help clear roads. Drivers should allow extra time and take it easy navigating snow-covered roads, the department said.
Real-time road information is available online at ohgo.com.
Staff writers Taylor Dungjen and Tom Henry compiled this report.
Contact Tom Henry at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6079.