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29n4cold A pedestrian, viewed through a frosted window, crosses North Huron Street near One Government Center. Toledo temperatures fell to -10 on Tuesday.
A pedestrian, viewed through a frosted window, crosses North Huron Street near One Government Center. Toledo temperatures fell to -10 on Tuesday.
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Published: Tuesday, 1/28/2014 - Updated: 8 months ago

Siberian cold veteran urges us to chill out

Many places in world much more frigid

BY NOLAN ROSENKRANS AND MIKE SIGOV
BLADE STAFF WRITERS

Bundle up, Toledo, and stop complaining.

Yes, it’s been cold in recent days, at least relative to what we are used to. But the temperatures this region has seen in recent days are nothing compared to what many north of us experience every winter. In Russia, Canada, even northern American states, -20 degrees Fahrenheit wouldn’t close down schools or courts. Heck, it’d be close to a heat wave.

Ivan Rachinsky, 24, said only wimps would skip school in his native town of of Raduzhny in Siberia for cold weather unless the temperature drops to about -24 degrees Fahrenheit.

PHOTO GALLERY: Bearing the bitter cold

Ivan Rachinsky, 24, said only wimps would skip school in his native town of Raduzhny in Siberia for below-zero temperatures. Ivan Rachinsky, 24, said only wimps would skip school in his native town of Raduzhny in Siberia for below-zero temperatures.
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Reached on the phone Tuesday while on a business trip to Moscow, Mr. Rachinsky, a small business owner, said the temperature of -10 degrees that Toledo had Tuesday morning is considered balmy in Raduzhny. Speaking in Russian, he said he would email The Blade a picture of himself playing soccer in his hometown earlier this month when the temperature was close to that reading.

“So if you are a student, you just bundle up and walk,” Mr. Rachinski said. “But if you are an adult working at an oil well, for example, you normally get bused to work. Of course, work shifts don’t get canceled even if [the temperature] drops to [-58 degrees Fahrenheit] or below.”

This month’s 39.5-inch snowfall in Toledo, as of Tuesday, shattered the 1978 record of 30.8 inches for January and any single month in Toledo. The coldest January in Toledo history was in 1977, with an average daily mean temperature of 9.6 degrees.

Tuesday’s morning low of -10 tied a record for the date, which was set during that frigid 1977 winter.

They also rarely close schools in Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories in Canada. Kyle Thomas, who works in digital communications and runs the blog ykonline.ca, said he can’t ever remember school being closed when he was a child because of cold temperatures.

The city of about 20,000 has been in a cold snap since mid-December, with temperatures hovering between -22 degrees to -45.4 Fahrenheit, he said.

Yellowknife doesn’t suffer from many extreme swings in temperature, he said, but instead endures a steady, but lengthy, cold.

That’s not necessarily fun, but it means people are not caught off-guard. Those in Yellowknife just learn to make do over time with the conditions; roads don’t get plowed, so cars just drive over the packed snow, he said.

“It’s just a way of life of always keeping going,” he said. “We don’t stop.“

While the extreme cold is just as much a danger there as in Toledo, people in Yellowknife are more prepared. Mr. Thomas posted a guide on his Web site about how to survive your first winter in Yellowknife, suggesting an extra layer of clothes for every 10 degrees colder it gets.

Just as much of a concern, he said, is the long stretches of darkness in the city, which can help cause depression. Residents are encouraged to do something, even go outside, to keep active, instead of wallowing in sorrow over the lengthy cold and darkness.

It’s not that folks up north don’t feel the cold.

Minnesotans and Alaskans get frostbite too. You just learn how to deal with it when you live in cold places.

Faye Whitbeck, president of the Chamber of Commerce in International Falls, Minn., said there are just as many warnings about frigid temperatures there as in Toledo.

“Are we made differently? No, we feel the cold as much as everyone else,” Ms. Whitbeck said. “But life must go on.”

Schools in that city have closed three times this year from the cold, although one was a statewide closure and not the district’s choice, Superintendent Nordy Nelson said. The district uses -40 degrees Fahrenheit as its guideline for when to close. Days that are between -25 and -39 degrees Fahrenheit prompt delayed starts, and there are plenty of those during the year.

“If we closed all those days, we’d be out 15-25 days,” Mr. Nelson said.

Families are reminded on those days that children need to be covered as much as possible to keep skin exposure down. Most, though, have grown up in the area, and know that already.

“It’s just understood in this area that it’s going to be severely cold at times,” Mr. Nelson said.

That schools even closed this year was a change from when Ms. Whitbeck was in school, when children walked no matter the temperature, she said. It’s somewhat ironic, she said, that there are so many technology improvements that help mitigate the cold, yet it seems we are less prepared these days.

Plus, she said, it’s been warmer than usual in recent years, meaning this year’s cold snap made us forget what normal weather feels like.

“All of those things have helped us get really comfortable,” Ms. Whitbeck said. “So we are just feeling a little sorry about ourselves.”

Most people said it’s a matter of acclimation and preparation. Children and adults alike that are used to frigid temperatures have closets full of warm clothes and know to layer. Many in Toledo, often times for lack of means, don’t have the same wardrobe.

Washington Local’s superintendent, for instance, said his district has taken more notice of cold temperatures in recent years, because poverty rates in his district more than doubled since the recession.

“Many of those kids aren’t prepared with hats and gloves,” Patrick Hickey said.

That leads to frequent closures in the area. Toledo Public Schools, for instance, has been off for seven days so far, past its limit. District leaders plan to use an online option to make up three of those days, and state lawmakers have proposed adding more snow days on a one-time basis.

Mr. Rachinsky of Siberia said he remembers his classes getting canceled mostly when he was in elementary school and the temperature dropped to -13 degrees or below, with high school students still having classes. As a high school student, he remembers his classes closing a few times when the temperature dropped to about -40F degrees or below.

A few days ago, the temperature in Raduzhny dropped to about - 58F and that was considered to be a cold spell, he said. On Tuesday, the lows were -38 during the day and -44 at night, which is not unusual for the town, he said. To get to Raduzhny, a town of about 30,000 people, one has to drive north for about 10 hours from Tyumen, a city of about a half-million people about 1,100 miles east of Moscow.

“You should see how you would like it here,” said a hotel administrator in Novosibirsk, Siberia, once she heard of school closings in Toledo on Tuesday.

Speaking on the phone from Novosibirsk, a city of about 1.5 million people about 2,000 miles east of Moscow, the woman said she makes her 15-year-old son go to school regardless of how cold it gets. She identified herself only by her first name, Irina.

She went on to say that city schools cancel the classes for kindergarten students and those in the first three grades of elementary school once the temperature drops to about -13.

She said the temperature has to drop “much, much lower” for high schools to close, but could not say exactly how much.

“I remember my son missing school a few times when he was in the second or third grade,” she said, noting that the temperature at the time dropped way below -20.

Speaking on the phone just before midnight, Novosobirsk time, on Tuesday, she said the temperature there at the time was about -10, which is considered warmer than usual, with temperatures in Novosibirsk this time of the year typically at about -22 or below.

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: nrosenkrans@theblade.com or 419-724-6086, or on Twitter @NolanRosenkrans.

Contact Mike Sigov at: sigov@theblade.com, 419-724-6089, or on Twitter @mikesigovblade.



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