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Published: Saturday, 2/10/2001

Freak storm spells end to spring-like respite

Weird winter weather featuring wind gusts of up to 63 mph, a temperature swing from the high 50s to the 30s, and a rare February thunderstorm smacked the area yesterday.

The spring-like weather that produced record and near-record temperatures was wiped out last night as the temperature plummeted.

The cold front that swept across the region looked like a wide sickle on the weather map, an arc of arctic chill mowing down two soft, balmy, 60-degree days.

As the warm weather was shoved aside by a cold front that swept across the Midwest, high winds caused power outages throughout the area last night.

A gust of 63 mph was reported at Metcalf Field in Wood County's Lake Township about 9 p.m. and a gust of 56 mph was reported at Toledo Express Airport at 8:34 p.m., according to AccuWeather, a private forecasting firm based in State College, Pa.

Power outages were reported last night primarily in five areas in the Toledo metropolitan area - central Toledo, Perrysburg, Perrysburg Township, Holland, and Oregon.

An estimated 20,000 customers were without electricity, Jennifer Shriver, a spokeswoman with Toledo Edison, said.

The outages started occurring about 9 p.m. because of the increased wind gusts, which either blew down power lines or downed trees and tree limbs onto power lines. All customers were expected to have power restored by sometime today, she said.

In addition to high winds, sporadic heavy rains played havoc in the area.

Carl Babinski, an AccuWeather meteorologist, said that 1.05 inches of inches of rain fell on the Toledo area yesterday.

The wet weather contributed to a 45-minute power outage that affected the Toledo Museum of Art and about 4,200 Toledo Edison customers in South and West Toledo.

A fire on a pole at Hawley and King streets caused the outage that started at 5:30 p.m., Ms. Shriver said.

She said when the weather is wet, salt and dirt that accumulates in the winter on power poles can cause a small current of electricity to go from wires to the wood on a pole, causing a fire.

Wet roads contributed to a pair of accidents yesterday on I-75 at the Bancroft Street exit, including one in the afternoon that blocked traffic for more than four hours when a semi crashed into a bridge abutment, jackknifed, and sent debris flying into the northbound lanes.

Both accidents were caused primarily by wet road conditions, police said.

An apparent lightning strike early yesterday caused a power outage at Sherman Elementary School, 731 Sherman St., that forced classes to be canceled for the day.

Gary Sautter, director of maintenance and construction for Toledo Public Schools, said the transformer on a pole outside the building was burned out from the apparent early morning lightning strike. Power was restored by Toledo Edison in the early afternoon.

Weather watchers who hoped to see record high temperatures were disappointed. On Feb. 9, 1932, thermometers in Toledo reached 62 degrees, but yesterday's high was 59 degrees, said Brad Vrcek, lead forecaster for the National Weather Service in Cleveland.

Detroit Metropolitan Airport also reported tying a record high. It reached 56 degrees there at 7:23 p.m., tying the record set in 1966.

The high temperature in Monroe yesterday was 61, and it was 53 in Adrian.

The freaky weather was caused by a “very potent” low pressure system from the Gulf of Mexico that had settled over a large portion of the United States, Mr. Babinski said.

A cold front plowed into the low pressure system and created the unusual February storm, he said.

“It's a very powerful cold front. A lot of times you get very strong cold fronts like this move through in November or March or April,” Mr. Babinski said.

Forecasters said the temperature should be in the high 20s today, dropping into the teens tonight. The winds should die down today into the 15 to 25 mph range, Mr. Babinski said.

“Just consider this a return to normal,” Mr. Vrcek said. “You don't have to worry about putting on the sunscreen lotion yet. You might have more of a problem with windburn, really.”



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