Arctic blast shuts schools, some roads across Ohio

JOHN SEEWER Associated Press Published:

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) -- Plummeting temperatures turned snow-covered roads into an icy mess in northern Ohio on Monday as officials around the state warned people to stay indoors if possible and some schools canceled Tuesday's classes well in advance.

Ohio was expected to see its coldest temperatures in two decades, with highs in the single digits and significantly below-zero wind chills in much of the state.

"We're used to the cold, but not this kind of cold," said Walter Topp, head of the county emergency management agency in Cleveland.

Parts of a few major routes in the Toledo area near the Michigan state line were shut Monday because of icy conditions, and several northern Ohio counties told all drivers except emergency workers to stay off the roads. Many flights at major airports were delayed or canceled.

Many schools closed Monday, along with Ohio State University, the University of Cincinnati, Miami University and the University of Toledo, and a variety of athletic events and other evening activities were postponed or canceled. City schools in Akron, Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo sent early notices canceling Tuesday's classes, as did Ohio State, the University of Toledo, Bowling Green State University and Cleveland State University.

The blast of dangerously cold weather came as Toledo and northwest Ohio dug out from a storm that dumped more than 8 inches of snow on the area. A 90-year-old woman was found dead in the snow near her stranded car in Wauseon, and police said they didn't know how long she was outside or what led to her death.

All of Ohio was under a rare wind chill warning, meaning frostbite could affect exposed skin within 10 minutes.

Devonte Williams, 20, set out for a 10-block walk to a Toledo gas station to pick up bread for his grandmother and cigars for his grandfather while wearing just a sweatsuit and ski cap. It took him about two blocks to regret it.

"I underestimated the weather," he said. "My legs are numb. They feel like icicles."

Warming centers opened Monday in recreational facilities in Columbus, Cleveland and Dayton. Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones did the same with the lobby of the jail in Hamilton, saying he didn't want people to have to fear freezing to death during the extreme cold.

The casinos in Toledo and Cleveland shut down, and ski slopes in the Cleveland area said they would stay closed until Wednesday, when temperatures were expected to rise.

Courthouses, banks and auto plants also were shut down across northern Ohio.

Meanwhile, officials urged people to check on their neighbors and bundle up while outdoors.

Suzanne Hanners of Cincinnati heeded the warning as she ran errands Monday wearing boots, wool socks, long underwear and lined jeans topped by a ski mask, a fur-trimmed hat and a down jacket.

"My tears were even freezing when my eyes started to water," the 50-year-old Web developer said. "As soon as I finish my errands, I'm heading back home, and I'll stay there."

AAA Ohio Auto Club logged 850 calls by noon, more than double the normal daily average for the 38 counties it serves. They were mostly a mixture of dead batteries and motorists spinning out on slick roads, spokeswoman Kimberly Schwind said.

In northern and western Ohio, Dominion East Ohio Gas asked customers to reduce usage over the next few days to prevent its distribution system from being overwhelmed.

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Associated Press writers Kantele Franko, Mitch Stacy and Julie Carr Smyth in Columbus and Lisa Cornwell and Dan Sewell in Cincinnati contributed to this report.