Break out that extra heavy winter coat to go with some hat and gloves this week, because an arctic air mass is set to bring subzero temperatures to the region by Wednesday.
“It is going to encompass pretty much the entire northern Ohio area and that is when we are going to see high temperatures drop to near zero essentially,” National Weather Service Meteorologist Raelene Campbell said Monday.
“On Wednesday, right now we are forecast for minus-3 degrees in Medina.”
According to the NWS, a slight chance of snow showers Tuesday will give way to partly sunny, but extremely cold conditions Wednesday and Thursday. Wind chill will be as cold as minus-23 degrees Wednesday.
It will be some of the coldest air to hit this area since 1994, according to weather history statistics.
A “heat wave” will bring temperatures back up to around 4 degrees before rising to a forecasted 16 degrees Friday.
These blisteringly cold temperatures can have an effect on everything from a pet’s quality of life to the pipes in homes and businesses.
Here is what you need to know to stay safe, warm and dry this week:
Parents are watching the winter weather warnings and schools officials are watching them, too — for generally the same reason.
Parents want to know if there will be school Wednesday and Thursday — when the brunt of the arctic temperatures will descend into the region — and school officials want to know if they should designate calamity days for the same.
Despite repeated warnings from the National Weather Service about the impending weather, schools in Medina County have not yet canceled classes.
It is not that easy, according to a posted social media message from Medina Schools.
“We will look at wind chill and air temperature (also road conditions) when making a decision relating to cold weather,” the Monday afternoon message said.
“Please remember that we do live in northern Ohio, so cold winter weather is not uncommon. In most situations, if air temperature is 0 degrees to minus-10 degrees with a little or moderate wind chill, we will likely have school.
“Air temperature of minus-20 degrees or below (regardless of wind chill) will probably cause us to cancel school. If the temperatures are between minus-11 degrees to minus-19 degrees and depending on wind chill, road conditions, and other current weather conditions, we may or may not have school.”
The post said school officials will carefully watch temperatures, wind chill and road conditions throughout the evening today and provide an update to parents if the decision is made to close school.
Frostbite and hypothermia
When temperatures take a dive, health concerns related to weather become real issues.
Dr. Tom Waters, an emergency department physician at Cleveland Clinic, said one of the biggest threats to a person’s health in bitter temps is hypothermia.
“When someone starts to become hypothermic they begin shivering; they may be stomping their feet and moving around a lot,” Waters said in a statement from the hospital. “That’s usually followed by a slowing phase — when they start to get lethargic, maybe have slurred speech; they can even start to have a little trouble walking.”
Waters said the amount of time that it takes to become hypothermic depends on the temperature, duration of time spent outside, and whether the person is wet or dry.
“The ambient temperature is important, but also the condition of the person,” he said. “If they’re wet, they can get colder much quicker. Water conducts heat much faster than air, so if somebody has fallen in the water, or they’re wet or sweaty because they’re working, they can get cold much, much quicker.”
Waters said hypothermia can also happen if the temperature gets cold enough inside of a home.
He said infants and the elderly, as well as those with chronic illness are most susceptible to suffering hypothermia.
The other big danger in frigid weather is frostbite.
When it comes to frostbite, Waters said the keys to staying safe are being prepared and paying attention to the forecast.
“You want to cover up exposed areas that you can, such as your fingers and ears,” he said. “Some things are harder to cover, like the nose, but there are face masks that you can buy that you can wear if you know you’re going to be out working in the cold.”
If a person begins to show signs of hypothermia or frostbite, Waters said they need to be taken to a warm area and seek medical attention right away.
Tracey Miller, Medina County SPCA director of operations, said freezing temperatures can create a “gray area” for the agency, which works to protect endangered and abused animals in the county.
Miller said that according to Ohio law, certain criteria must be met before the agency can become involved in a situation, and it involves more than just being cold outside.
“People think that they can just call us and we can walk up on the property and take the dog off the property and unfortunately we just can’t do that,” Miller said.
Miller said that by law, an animal must have access to food, water and some type of shelter. The shelter can be anything from a home, to a garage, basement or outdoor doghouse.
While a dog living outside in the cold, even with a shelter is not how the SPCA would prefer it, according to the state, it means the legal obligations have been met.
However, if the animal that is outside is showing signs of distress resulting from the weather, it is more likely the organization can intercede.
“If they are shivering uncontrollably … if they are holding their paws up where clearly their paws are hurting because of touching the snow, touching the cold, if they are not able stand … ,” Miller said.
An animal’s ability to withstand cold temperatures is even breed specific, Miller said.
“A St. Bernard is more likely to handle the cold better than a pit bull with very short fur,” she said.
With the upcoming freezing weather, Miller said she recommends pet owners bring their furry friends indoors for the time being.
“We certainly tell people in these weathers, please bring them in,” she said. “If not in the home, in some type of garage or something other than the outside.”
Roto-Rooter Plumbing and Drain Services of Medina spokesperson Ilene Hackett compares household plumbing to putting a water bottle in the freezer when describing exactly why pipes can freeze when the temperatures drop outside.
“Water expands as it freezes, so when there is water in pipes that freeze, they expand, and that expanding can eventually weaken the pipe and cause it to burst,” she said Monday.
Hackett said the company has seen an increase in service calls ever since the temperatures began seriously dropping during the past week or so.
“We have been bombarded by calls, since probably the past week, since the temperatures really dropped, we get call after call after call,” she said.
While frozen pipes are a fact of life, Hackett said steps can be taken to prevent those pipes from freezing up and eventually bursting.
“If the pipes are exposed they can wrap them with insulation,” she said. “There is a special kind of thermostat control tape that you can buy and wrap around your pipes which kind of acts like a heater.”
Hackett advises caution when using the product, and not have it touch anything that would be considered flammable.
Those that aren’t comfortable installing the tape themselves can pay a certified plumber to do the work for them, she said.
Hackett said that for plumbing located beneath cabinets, simply open the cabinets up to allow the warm air from the rest of the house to circulate around the pipes.
Letting the faucet run at a slow drip is also a way to help prevent pipes from freezing up, she said.
“Some homeowners also need to be cautious about their drain pipes, because the drains can freeze as well,” Hackett said.
City handles cold snap
Letting the faucets run is something Wadsworth Public Services Director Robert Patrick said the city encourages its residents to do in freezing temperatures, at least for those that have pipes that run along exterior walls, he said Monday.
“We will be doing this at some of our facilities as a precaution,” he said.
Patrick said that while emergency work will have to be dealt with during the upcoming extreme cold, the city takes the safety of its employees working outdoors seriously.
“We are finding work for them indoors during Wednesday and Thursday for their safety,” Patrick said. “Our employees are our greatest assets.”
Patrick said that despite a cold and snowy January, the city has fared well so far this winter.
“We were spared with mild temps in December so we are good on salt and equipment thus far,” Patrick said.
Closings and delays
Due to the extreme cold temperatures this week, the Medina Senior Center will be closed Wednesday and Thursday. There will be no lunch or activities either day. Additionally, no lunch will be served at the Brunswick Rec Center Wednesday.
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