Arctic air blowing in from Canada brought Toledo its coldest day in almost two years on Tuesday, sending homeless people scurrying to shelters and prompting school delays and cancellations.
The weather’s effect in northwest Ohio was not nearly as severe as it was elsewhere in the Midwest, but it was still breathtakingly cold, with a brisk westerly wind augmenting the mostly single-digit temperatures to keep the wind chill below zero all day, according to National Weather Service readings at Toledo Express Airport.
With a morning low of 1 degree and an afternoon high of 11 at the airport — making for a mean temperature of 6 degrees — Tuesday was the coldest day in Toledo since March 10, 2011, when the mean temperature was 4.
The low matched Toledo's lowest temperature of all last winter — 1 degree on Jan. 20, 2012 — but the high temperature that day was 17.
The chilly temperatures caused a scattering of school districts in the region to cancel classes Tuesday, including Monroe, Bowling Green, Fostoria, Otsego, and Eastwood, while numerous districts delayed school openings by two hours to reduce students’ exposure to the deepest presunrise cold as they waited at bus stops.
The weather service continued a wind-chill advisory for Toledo and counties south and east of the city until 11 a.m. today. The agency said winds gusting to 30 mph combined with temperatures within a few degrees either side of zero Fahrenheit would create wind chills as low as 14 degrees below zero in the region.
“It’s going to get down close to zero,” said Dennis Bray, a meteorologist at the weather service office in Cleveland. As of early evening, his agency’s forecast morning low for Toledo was 2, “but if the clouds clear out, it could actually go below zero,” he said.
Snow accumulations in northwest Ohio through today were generally expected to be light. Not so in the Snow Belt area from Cleveland east, where up to half a foot of new snow was expected.
A foot or more had already fallen in some areas of extreme northeast Ohio and northwest Pennsylvania, with 16½ inches falling Monday at the Erie, Pa., airport.
Only 0.2 inch had fallen at Toledo Express as of late Tuesday, and the total for the month to date, 0.4 inch, was 7.7 inches below normal for January.
Forecasts included the possibility of accumulating snow in the Toledo area Thursday night into Friday, although Mr. Bray said forecasters did not expect a significant amount from the storm, whose center is expected to pass south of the region.
Toledo’s chill Tuesday was part of an Arctic outbreak that began sweeping into the Midwest late Saturday. On Tuesday morning, International Falls, Minn., a town near the Canadian border, reported a low temperature of minus 30, with a forecasted high of 8 below. The coldest location in the lower 48 states Monday was Embarrass, Minn., at 36 below. On Sunday it was Babbitt, Minn., at 29 below, according to the weather service.
In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, residents woke Tuesday to a wind chill that made it feel like 35 below. The temperature in Madison, Wis., was a whopping 1 degree above just before midday, while Chicago was at 6 and Detroit at 7.
Detroit officials said they planned to extend hours at their city’s two warming centers. A warming center run by St. Peter and Paul Jesuit Church downtown that usually sees 50 to 60 people on a typical winter day had taken in about 90 people Tuesday morning.
In Toledo, St. Paul’s Community Center said it was sheltering about 50 more homeless men and women nightly as part of its winter crisis program, in addition to its normal capacity of 35, by setting up cots in common areas.
“We are full. I’m sure tonight we will be brimming,” Marcia Langenderfer, executive director at St. Paul’s, said Tuesday afternoon.
The 101 beds also were full at Toledo’s Family House, an emergency shelter for families, Executive Director Renee Palacios said. “Many of the families we serve stay in their cars until they absolutely have to come in to a shelter,” she said.
Police in Milwaukee, where the temperature was just 2 degrees at noon, checked under freeway overpasses to find the homeless and urge them to find a shelter. The United Way of Greater Milwaukee has donated $50,000 to two homeless shelters so they can open overflow centers.
On Sunday, a 70-year-old man was found frozen in his unheated home in Des Plaines, Ill. And in Green Bay, Wis., a 38-year-old man was found dead outside his home Monday morning. Authorities in both cases said the victims died of hypothermia and cold exposure, with alcohol a possible contributing factor.
A 77-year-old Illinois woman was found dead near her car in southwestern Wisconsin on Saturday night.
The Area Office on Aging of Northwestern Ohio Inc. issued an advisory urging seniors to avoid going outdoors during times of below-zero wind chills. Those planning to go out should dress in layers and wear hats, scarves, and mittens or gloves to protect against frostbite or hypothermia.
The agency recommended hot, nonalcoholic drinks; alcohol narrows blood vessels, increasing the body’s susceptibility to cold.
Staff writer Kate Giammarise and Blade News Services contributed to this report.
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