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Published: Wednesday, 12/6/2000

Region blasted by cold reality: Winter is near

BY DAVID PATCH AND MIKE TRESSLER
BLADE STAFF WRITERS
Mike Sweeney, Mark Fay, Jim Spetz, and Mike Webster, from left, huddle around a fire in a trash bin outside Superior Spinning & Stamping on Front Street, where the United Auto Workers union is on strike. Mike Sweeney, Mark Fay, Jim Spetz, and Mike Webster, from left, huddle around a fire in a trash bin outside Superior Spinning & Stamping on Front Street, where the United Auto Workers union is on strike.
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Toledoans who needed a reminder that winter is on its way got just that yesterday with a fresh blast of Arctic air from the northwest.

Brisk winds made temperatures in the low 20s feel like below-zero cold, sending lunchtime pedestrians scurrying for cover. “Winter is definitely here,” said Carol Findley, director of development at the Cherry Street Mission, where demand for free meals was up 30 per cent and more people than usual were using the dayroom yesterday.

Yesterday's high temperature at Toledo Express Airport actually was 36 degrees - but that was recorded at 4 a.m. The mercury fell sharply during the morning and, by 4 p.m., it stood at 21. By this morning, temperatures in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan were expected to be in the single digits.

Scott Homan, a meteorologist with AccuWeather, Inc., a private forecasting firm based in State College, Pa., said the cold snap occurred yesterday as Arctic air swept southeastward toward the Atlantic. Lake-effect snows blanketed areas downwind of the Great Lakes, but the Toledo area got only flurries, he said.

While temperatures normally climb into the mid 30s in the Toledo area this time of year, Mr. Homan said Toledo is unlikely to see 30 degrees before Friday.

There also is a chance for accumulating snow on Friday, though it is unlikely to be a significant event, he said.

Ms. Findley, a New Hampshire native, said the chill yesterday felt particularly cold to her because she just moved to Toledo in September after living in Mississippi for 10 years.

But Toledoans' blood could well have thinned a little, too, during the past few autumns. National Weather Service records show that November and December were warmer than average in both 1998 and 1999, and the current autumn was fairly balmy until mid-November as well.

“This isn't that bad, really,” said Dawn Curtis, a Fifth-Third Bank employee who had just finished a shivery walk back to her downtown office from lunch. “It's going to get a lot worse before it gets better.”

And while waiting for a bus at the Government Center stop on Jackson Street, Amy Pratt said that while she “liked it when it was warmer - in the 40s, in the fall,” the cold yesterday wasn't all that shocking for the season.

Area merchants reported an increase in winter-related sales.

“The extreme cold is hard on batteries and alternators, takes the life right out of a battery. If it's weak, it's gonna go. So it's been a bad-battery kind of day here. Winter is just starting and we're starting to see people who should have checked their battery in September.”

The store also has begun selling more hoses, belts, wiper blades, and windshield washer fluid, Ms. Duncan said.

The Andersons General Store in Lima, O., reported more people looking at - but not yet buying - room heaters. “They will when they get cold, but sales haven't been any more than usual,” Temeni Roediger, of the hardware department, said.

Big Daddy's Towing service in Lima had its trucks on the road last night and an answering service operator said she expected more calls than usual if the night got much colder.

Lima's Salvation Army centers already were seeing more people drop in for services - and to warm up, said Maj. Maurice Smith.

“We definitely had more come in today, mostly children in the after-school program because it got too cold to play outdoors,” he said.

St. Paul's Community Center in Toledo, which opened its shelter for “winter crisis” service last night, requested donations of blankets, coats, and bed linens.

Ordinarily, the center offers shelter only as part of its 30-day rehabilitation program, but during “winter crisis” periods its 50 cots are open to anyone who needs a place to sleep.

One of the bigger weather-related hassles in Toledo was a ruptured eight-inch water main at Byrne Road and Airport Highway, which iced the intersection and kept lanes closed most of the day.

“It's peak season for us,” said Amy Linder, the city's manager of water distribution. Along with the Byrne-Airport break, water lines broke yesterday at Central Avenue and Executive Parkway and at Oakwood Avenue and Clinton Street. Three breaks are fairly normal for a winter day, Ms. Linder said.

The National Weather Service reported an average temperature at Toledo Express of 39.9 degrees during November, 0.1 degrees below normal. But 11 of last month's first 12 days were warmer than average, followed by a stretch in which 12 of 13 days were colder than average. And October, 2000 was 4.2 degrees warmer than average, with 11 70-degree days, including one in which the mercury reached 80.



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