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Published: 2/6/2007

Deep freeze shuts schools for second straight day

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Justin Stone hunkers down in-side his coat, hat, and scarf to keep warm as he walks along Adams Street downtown. Justin Stone hunkers down in-side his coat, hat, and scarf to keep warm as he walks along Adams Street downtown.
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The Toledo area was spared the deadly cold and windchills that exceeded -30 degrees in the northern plains and upper Great Lakes yesterday, but the overnight low here was expected to tie a record and led many area school districts to cancel classes today for a second straight day.

An overnight low of -6 degrees was forecast this morning for Toledo, which would tie the record low for this date set in 1982. Accu-Weather, Inc., a private forecasting service based in State College, Pa., said the mercury will struggle to reach a high of 10 degrees today after creeping to only 8 degrees above zero yesterday.

Those temperatures would be considered almost balmy in places like Grand Fork, N.D., and International Falls, Minn., where the temperatures reached -30 degrees yesterday. Temperatures in northern Minnesota plummeted even further: dropping to -38 in Hallock and -42 in Embarrass.

Subzero temperatures blanketed the Minneapolis-St. Paul area for 63 straight hours the longest stretch since 2004 ending yesterday afternoon.

At least four deaths were blamed on the cold and ice. In parts of upstate New York, the punishing cold was accompanied by snowfalls measured in feet.

In northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan, many school districts announced plans yesterday to cancel or delay classes this morning; others were waiting until early today to decide.

Some of the school systems closed today were Toledo Public, the area s largest school system with about 29,400 students; Washington Local, Oregon City, Lake Local, Perrysburg, Maumee, Sylvania, Dundee, Old Fort, Otsego, Genoa, Port Clinton, Northwood, Bellevue, Bowling Green, Benton-Carroll-Salem, Danbury, Tiffin, Sandusky, and Fremont.

Five-year-old Logan Danzeisen, a Sylvania preschooler, said he was sad when he learned that his district was shut down yesterday by the deep freeze because it was his turn to be class leader.

His father, a teacher in Sylvania Public School system, did not share the emotion.

Dad s a teacher, so Dad was very excited, Mr. Danzeisen said as he laced up his son s ice skates at Tam O Shanter ice rink on Sylvania Avenue.

The father and son joined dozens of ice skaters who were inspired by the cold to skate but not enough to be outside.

City of Toledo officials decided to close the outdoor ice rink at Ottawa Park because of the cold.

The irony is not lost on us, said Brian Schwartz, a spokesman for Mayor Carty Finkbeiner.

After a relatively mild start to winter, bitter cold continued to hang over the area for a third straight day yesterday as Toledo s morning low dipped to -3 degrees.

Normal temperatures for this time of year are a high of about 33 degrees and a low of about 17 degrees.

Tom Kines, a senior meteorologist at AccuWeather, said warmer air should bring temperatures up tomorrow to a high near 20 degrees, but could bring with it a chance of snow.

Cold temperatures were not the only reason cited yesterday by Toledo-area school officials for canceling classes. Problems getting buses to start in the cold were blamed for some of the cancellations.

Toledo Public Schools Interim Superintendent John Foley said that about one-quarter of the district s 142 buses didn t start early yesterday morning, leading officials to switch from a two-hour delay to calling off classes. The district canceled classes again today, using the second of its five state-allotted calamity days for the 2006-2007 school year.

Area school officials took different approaches yesterday in deciding when to cancel classes for today.

Tiffin City School officials decided by 5:30 p.m. yesterday to cancel classes this morning because of predictions of a wind chill factor of 25 degrees below.

Tom Anway, director of operations for Tiffin schools, said the safety of the children is the driving factor in whether classes are canceled because 50 percent of the district s students walk to school each day.

A windchill of 25 degrees below zero is just too cold for a first-grader walking to school, Mr. Anway said.

We would like to think every parent would take their children [to school] or dress them extremely warm, but that doesn t always happen.

Some students in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan had to wait until this morning to find out whether they were going to school today.

Early today, Bowling Green closed city schools, according to TV reports, after last night calling a two-hour delay. Hugh Caumartin, superintendent of Bowling Green city schools, said about half of the students in the expansive district walk to school.

Eastwood Superintendent Brent Welker said in an e-mail to the community yesterday that the decision to cancel school yesterday was a difficult one.

Eventually we just decided that we did not want to place our kids at risk with regards to transportation, he wrote.

A similar situation met transportation officials in Perrysburg schools, who worried that freezing winds would stall buses on routes, even if they were able to get them started.

The winter blasts weren t just problems for youngsters walking to schools and the buses. The area s elderly were asked to stay indoors yesterday, and senior centers were closed to discourage the elderly from leaving home.

Older adults were also reminded to stay warm at home and to look for preliminary signs of hypothermia including sluggishness, mild confusion, shivering, and loss of control of fine finger movements.

Area hospitals did not report any major injuries because of to the cold.

However, a spokesman for St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center said several people were treated for minor frostbite and hypothermia.

In Kentucky, the cold contributed to two weekend deaths, an elderly man who wandered away from his home Sunday and a motorist whose car slid on ice and overturned in a river, authorities said.

An 8-year-old girl and her mother were killed in a wreck blamed on an icy road in Michigan, state police said.

The subzero weather has had Toledo city water crews jumping.

Robert Williams, director of the city Department of Utilities, said 10 water-main breaks were repaired over the weekend. He said repairs usually take four to six hours, and customers in that area of the main are advised to boil their water for several days.

Mr. Williams said the city received 30 complaints of frozen pipes or water meters on Sunday and 25 more as of yesterday afternoon. He said water meters can freeze and break if they are in crawl spaces or other places that aren t heated or underheated. If they break, the meter then has to be repaired by the city at the homeowner s expense.

It s the customer s responsibility. They re supposed to keep the meter warm, Mr. Williams said.

AAA Northwest Ohio reported hundreds of calls for dead batteries and other assistance, related to the cold temperatures.

Blade Staff Writers Robin Erb, Josh Boak, Jennifer Feehan, Joe Vardon, Jane Schmucker, Janet Romaker, Tom Troy, Benjamin Alexander-Bloch, and Erika Ray and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact Erica Blake at:eblake@theblade.comor 419-724-6076.



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