Utilities rush to restore heat across frigid Ohio

JOHN SEEWER Associated Press Published:

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) -- Another day of dangerously low temperatures across the state had many people inside trying to stay warm and utility crews rushing to restore heat and electricity after sporadic outages.

At least two men were believed to have died from hypothermia while two women were found dead in the snow at opposite corners of the state since the deep freeze began Monday.

While temperatures didn't approach the record lows set in Ohio during a 1994 cold snap, a number of records were broken for Monday and Tuesday's dates, the National Weather Service said.

The temperature reached minus 14 early Tuesday in Toledo, the coldest spot in the state, breaking the previous record for the date of minus 7, set in 1970.

Cleveland reached minus 11, Youngstown minus 12 and Columbus minus 7 on Tuesday morning, all records for Jan. 7.

Temperatures hovered below or just above zero most of the day.

Historically speaking, it was the coldest weather in Ohio since January 1994, when it reached minus 25 in Akron and minus 20 in Cleveland, the weather service said.

Temperatures will gradually warm up on Wednesday and through the rest of week, reaching the 40s by the weekend.

But that was little consolation for the people without heat as demand for natural gas and other operational problems left customers with little or no gas because of low pressure in their supply lines.

Utilities weren't reporting many outages on Tuesday, saying most were scattered problems affecting only dozens of customers.

The biggest outage appeared to be west of Cleveland, where about 2,200 Columbus Gas customers in North Ridgeville and Elyria were left without heat on Monday night. Crews were working all day Tuesday to restore service, Columbus Gas spokesman Ray Frank said.

Power companies also were reporting a few outages but nothing major.

"We're not seeing a lot of ice buildup," FirstEnergy Corp. spokesman Mark Durbin said. "We're seeing a little bit of wind, but that's really not the issue. It's just due to the extreme conditions."

Frigid weather on Tuesday hampered crews trying to repair a major water main break that flooded and then iced some downtown Columbus streets the night before.

In Cleveland, commuter rail service linking downtown and Cleveland Hopkins International Airport was halted by frozen switches. Crews used blow torches on the switches, and trains were replaced by shuttle buses.

The Guernsey County sheriff's office, in eastern Ohio, reported that a man found dead on a frozen lake apparently died of hypothermia, a dangerously low body temperature, after he set out on a walk Monday evening.

University Hospitals in Cleveland said one person treated for hypothermia died there on Monday. A medical examiner in Cleveland also was looking into the death of a man found outside Tuesday morning.

A 90-year-old woman died Monday in Wauseon after her car got stuck in the snow and she tried to walk home. Also Monday, a woman's body was found frozen in the snow at a trailer park near Athens.

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Associated Press writers Kantele Franko and Mitch Stacy in Columbus, Tom Sheeran in Cleveland and Lisa Cornwell in Cincinnati contributed to this report.