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Published: Monday, 12/22/2008

-25 wind chill predicted for Monday; temperatures in Toledo coldest in 22 months Sunday night at -2

BY MEGHAN GILBERT
AND ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITERS

Toledo's temperature dipped to below zero for the first time in 22 months last night, and it felt that cold for most of the day.

Bitter winds of 25 mph, with gusts of 35 to 40 mph, made it feel like it was 25 degrees below zero in Toledo last evening, according to the National Weather Service in Cleveland.

The mercury had fallen late last night to -2 degrees Fahrenheit at Toledo Express Airport, and it was expected to drop even lower by morning.

The bitter cold and wind chill factor reflected similar conditions across much of the nation yesterday, the first official day of winter.

The conditions locally rode an arctic front that came through the lower Great Lakes region from central Canada yesterday morning, said Tom King, a weather service meteorologist.

During the two hours between 6 and 8 a.m. yesterday, the temperature plunged from 26 degrees to 11 at Toledo Express.

Peak winds also occurred in the morning when the front came through, gusting as high as 48 mph just before 7 a.m., Mr King said.

"If we could just drop off the wind just a tad, we'd be OK," he said.

Throughout the day, electric-company crews battled to restore power to thousands of customers in northwest Ohio.

Toledo Edison and AEP Ohio reported outages at several thousand residences each. The numbers fluctuated as crews got some homes' power restored while the wind knocked others out.

Gary Keys, area manager for Toledo Edison, said the combination of wind and ice still clinging to wires and tree limbs from freezing rain Friday caused the power outages concentrated in Defiance, Wauseon, and, in Sandusky County's Lindsey.

Sheriff's offices in Henry, Ottawa, Defiance, and Williams counties all reported many outages early yesterday. Other areas, including Findlay, Van Wert, and Paulding, reported scattered outages, and parts of Maumee were in the dark yesterday morning.

Randy Payne, community affairs manager for the northwest Ohio region of AEP Ohio, said all outages from the ice storm Friday had been repaired before the winds rose yesterday, causing new problems.

"A large number of our customers are out because a transmission line that feeds two substations is down," he said, adding that all power should have been restored by early this morning.

Those heading out this morning were urged to bundle up, with the National Weather Service issuing a wind chill warning for all of northwest Ohio and Hillsdale County, Michigan, until noon today. Lenawee and Monroe counties were under a wind chill advisory.

The weather service cautioned that temperatures in the Toledo area were expected to drop as low as -5 degrees with winds that could push wind chills to -25 degrees and stay "well below zero" into the afternoon.

Prolonged exposure to such cold can cause frostbite or hypothermia.

"The number one thing, definitely, is stay inside if you can," Mr. King said. "If you have to go out, be prepared."

Area hospitals reported few emergency-room visits by those suffering from cold-related ailments.

Sheriff's offices and Ohio Highway Patrol posts reported cars sliding off the roads and a few fender benders, but no major weather-related problems.

But while potentially hazardous, Toledo's current chill is nowhere close to record cold. An even colder air mass in 1989 brought three consecutive days when the low temperature fell to -10 or lower, including -19 on Dec. 22, the lowest December reading in Toledo history.

Slightly warmer weather is expected to arrive tomorrow, forecasters predicted, but at the price of more wintry precipitation. Highs of 16 degrees are expected for today, but the lows will stay in the single digits at 8 degrees. The winds also will calm a bit to 15 to 20 mph, Mr. King said.

The weather service predicted a high of 30 tomorrow and 38 on Wednesday in Toledo, but with snow developing tomorrow afternoon and gradually changing to freezing rain and rain tomorrow night and Wednesday.

"This is a classic nor'easter," meteorologist John Cannon said. "It's got all the features."

Wind gusts up to 35 mph blew snow and contributed to a crash involving at least 30 vehicles yesterday on I-94 in southwestern Michigan. At least one person was seriously injured in the crash, which shut down six miles of eastbound lanes, state police said.

Elsewhere across the nation, blizzard warnings were in effect in Iowa, Illinois, and parts of Maine, where up to 24 inches of snow was expected.

More than 20 vehicles were involved in a pileup on I-43 in Wisconsin's Ozaukee County that briefly shut southbound lanes. Eleven people were injured.

Even hardy Minnesotans buckled to the cold, calling off a Minneapolis holiday parade that is automatically canceled if the wind chill dips below -20.

The harsh weather in the Northeast and Midwest produced travel headaches.

Flights at Newark Airport, serving New York City, were delayed an average of two hours. Some arrivals at Logan International Airport in Boston were delayed by more than three hours.

As the weather interfered with airports in Northern states, George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston had delays averaging about five hours.

Two of the three runways at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport were operating, but airlines canceled scores of flights over the weekend.

Blade staff writer Erica Blake also contributed to this report.

Information from The Blade's news services was used in this report.



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