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Forecasts of 30 below 0 wind chills for Toledo can move food off grocery store shelves as fast as, well, 38 mph wind gusts — which are also forecast for Monday.
And we aren’t talking just milk, bread, and eggs.
At the Kroger store at Secor Road and Monroe Street, big areas of the produce counters were picked clean early Saturday evening as shoppers stocked up in preparation for what is forecast to be the city’s third major snowstorm in a month, followed by potentially its deepest cold snap in decades.
“They ran out of a lot of stuff,” said Cynthia Hoard, a Toledo homemaker shopping at the Kroger store. But she wasn’t even considering stopping at a second store for the items she couldn't find. She was headed home.
The most common — tomatoes, carrots, and peppers — were all gone.
Four lonely pineapples remained on a large table that had held bananas. The only bananas available were the far more expensive mini bananas and plantains.
Suzanne Stammer, who had planned to buy ingredients for white chili, rethought her list when she didn’t find celery, black-eyed peas, or ground turkey on the store shelves. Apparently, she said, her menu idea for a snowed-in day was far from unique.
She substituted, however, with ground pork, pinto beans, and green tomatoes.
“I guess everybody’s pretty concerned, thinking the city’s going to close down Monday and Tuesday,” said the Toledo woman, who is an interior painter. She had heard at work that stores across the region were packed with shoppers and shelves were emptying quickly.
The Kroger store has no plans to close during the storm — no matter how cold it gets, said Angelina Cole, a customer service representative, who estimated that sales had been twice as brisk Saturday afternoon and evening as usual.
A sign on the dairy coolers read, “Sorry for the inconvenience but we’re out of milk. We should have some after 9 p.m.” At about 6:45 p.m., the only milk in the cooler appeared to be lactose-free and soy milk.
The Andersons store at Monroe Street and Talmadge Road still had most grocery items in stock, but it was sold out of snowblowers and straw bales.
Jeremy Givens, assistant store manager, pledged that the store will remain open unless road conditions would get so bad that it would be told to close by authorities. Even if the area would lose power, he said, the store has backup generators and will keep its doors open.
But lots of shoppers were hoping to just stay home if temperatures set record lows for the area.
Take Michelle Smith, a Toledo homemaker, who had just purchased a snow shovel and eggs at The Andersons. She was praying that school will be canceled this week so that she and her 8-year-old son can continue the holiday break and while away the hours playing games such as Monopoly Empire.
There won’t be much fun and games for those working to remove snow and keep utilities, businesses, and farms operating in the cold weather — although there could be some lucrative overtime for some.
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Toledo street crews on Saturday continued 12-hour shifts to clean up as much as possible of what remained of nine inches that fell on the city Wednesday and Thursday. Plows, bulldozers, and other equipment piled mounds of snow on downtown intersections while city and contractor crews worked on side streets, although some residential streets remained unplowed.
David Welch, Toledo’s commissioner of streets, bridges, and harbor, said the round-the-clock effort likely will continue through late this week if the snowfall forecasts for today are accurate.
“They’re still talking 8 to 10,” he said early Saturday afternoon. “Where are you going to put it all? We’re going to have to bring in dump trucks to take it away.”
The updated National Weather Service forecast later Saturday predicted 5 to 9 inches of snow for the Toledo area, with most of it expected to fall between midmorning and early evening today. Somewhat heavier snow was predicted for extreme northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan.
While light winds were forecast during the storm, the passage of its cold front late today or early Monday was to usher in a strong westerly wind and sharply colder temperatures that, combined, could create dangerous wind chills.
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The National Weather Service said Toledo-area temperatures will drop below zero Monday and remain near or below that mark into Wednesday, with Tuesday’s morning lows in the teens below zero. Wind-chill readings, a measure of the combined effect of cold and wind on exposed skin, could go to 40 below zero, which can quickly cause frostbite and is life-threatening under prolonged exposure.
Homeless shelters in Toledo said they were opening up reserve capacity to handle as many people as they could. The STARS women’s shelter at 441 Oakdale Ave. said it would be open to up to 20 women, not just program participants, nightly from 9 p.m. through 9 a.m. until Wednesday morning.
Toledo’s forecast is only part of a broader outbreak of Arctic air expected to plunge deep into the southeastern United States by Tuesday. Below-zero lows are possible from Washington, where such cold is extremely rare, all the way to Boston.
Officials in Minnesota already have ordered schools closed statewide on Monday, the first time that has been done in 17 years. The Green Bay Packers-San Francisco 49ers playoff today in Wisconsin is expected to be one of the coldest games in National Football League history.
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Recent snow and cold already have caused significant transportation problems in the Midwest and Northeast.
A total of 1,266 flights were canceled across the United States and 6,036 flights delayed on Saturday, with Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey among the most affected, according to tracking firm FlightAware.com.
Among those diverted by flight cancellations was Austin Smith, a Jackson, Mich., resident who ended up on an Amtrak train to Toledo on Friday evening instead of a plane to Detroit after visiting a friend in New York.
But the train was not immune to the weather either: its normal 14-hour journey from New York to Toledo took 24 instead, starting out with a six-hour delay in New York because of a stuck drawbridge and frozen doors that workers had to thaw with welder’s torches before passengers could board the train.
During the Cleveland stop, all passengers were allowed off the train so they could use restrooms in the station.
“All the bathrooms except two were frozen,” Mr. Smith explained.
That was still better, Mr. Smith said, than waiting until Tuesday for the first available flight — one that might also get canceled because of the weather.
“It was really nice that we got this — we got the last ticket on the train,” said the 22-year-old, whose father suggested the train alternative. He hoped to get up to college in Alma, Mich., today before the snow got too bad.
Chicago-bound passengers boarding the train in Toledo said Amtrak had given them ample warning about the delay, but Debra Weaver, who had been visiting relatives in Bluffton, Ohio, remained worried about how the railroad was going to complete her trip to Wichita, Kan.
“My train in Chicago is the only train to Wichita, and it’s gone,” she said. “I still like the train — it’s much quieter — but I remember now the problems with winter travel on trains.”
Chuck and LaDenna Johnston were a little less concerned because the train from Chicago to their New Orleans home leaves hours later than the train through Kansas, but mainly they were glad to be ending their visit to relatives in Walbridge before the next storm hit.
“We’re getting out just in time,” Mr. Johnston said.
This report includes information from The Blade's news services.
Contact David Patch at: email@example.com or 419-724-6094.