Cold on its way out

Some of the mailboxes along city letter carrier John Harding’s route were frozen solid Monday afternoon.

“You have to take your fist and beat on the front of it to get them to open,” he said.

Decked out in gloves, a ski hat and “some really good boots,” Harding braved his route in Marietta Monday afternoon as the temperatures slowly dropped into the single digits.

The cold snap broke records across the Midwest Monday, sinking to the lowest recorded temperature in nearly two decades in many places.

Harding said he ranked the cold snap that started Monday in the top three since he started with the United States Postal Service 26 years ago, but he would have to see the Ohio River freeze-as it did in the late 1980s-for it to take the No. 1 spot.

“I’ll never forget that sight driving to work. The caps of the wakes were just a sculpture,” he recalled.

Parkersburg, the nearest city for which the National Weather Service keeps data, last hit subzero temperatures in January 2011. However, the temperature was expected to reach -9 degrees Monday night, according to Jeff Hovis, a meteorologist with the weather service in Charleston.

That would beat the previous record for Jan. 6, which was -5 degrees in 1942.

“That’s bad enough, but with a wind chill of negative 30, it’s deadly. It wouldn’t take very long to get frostbite at negative 30,” said Hovis.

At that wind chill, exposed skin can freeze in a half hour, according to the National Weather Service’s wind chill chart.

The weather kept Newport resident Judy Booth, 74, inside Monday.

“I don’t go out in it unless I have to,” she said.

But her husband was not going to let the cold keep him from his routine.

“Him and about five other men are hunting around here. I said, ‘You guys are nuts,'” she said.

Typically the men are out from 6:30 a.m. to dinner time, but Booth said she would not be surprised if the wind drove them home early.

Washington County Dog Warden Kelly McGilton was busy checking on calls about outdoor pets Monday.

“People just called a little bit ago about two dogs tied outside with no straw. In this cold, a dog house does absolutely no good without straw,” she said.

McGilton said she was willing to deliver straw to people who could not afford or access it. People can request straw by calling her at 373-6623, Ext. 204 and leaving their name, number and address, she said.

However, she added that people should really consider bringing all pets inside in this weather.

“I’m seeing a lot of people in the community that have already brought animals in-a garage, an unfinished basement-anything is better than leaving them outside in this,” she said.

Schools across the county shut their doors Monday in light of the cold.

“If anything makes me nervous, it’s cold,” said Warren Local Superintendent Kyle Newton. “There are so many things that can happen when it’s zero degrees. It makes me nervous to go to work and I don’t want to put my students in danger.”

Newton had decided by Monday afternoon to cancel today’s classes due to the anticipated cold.

Wolf Creek Local administrators also made some early judgment calls based on the forecast. They made the decision Sunday to cancel both Monday and Tuesday classes, according to Superintendent Bob Caldwell.

“(Today) we will take a serious look at whether we are going to be on a delay for Wednesday,” he added.

Washington Electric Cooperative had a few ice-related service outages overnight Sunday.

“Most of them have been taken care of,” said Jennifer Greene, director of marketing and member services for the company.

The electric company works to replace lines and perform maintenance throughout the year, but once the severe weather hits not much can be done in the way of preventative maintenance.

“We’ve got all of our fingers and toes crossed hoping our members don’t lose power,” said Greene.

But it is still smart for individuals to take precautionary measures such as having plenty of blankets and an extra heat source or a place to stay, she said.

Many residents were planning on hunkering down indoors until the cold passes.

“We just mainly stay inside because it’s freezing,” said Marietta resident Savannah Whitten, 17.

Vincent resident Barbara Meek, 76, had the same idea. She had already taken steps to keep her home protected Monday morning.

“The cabinet doors are open where the warm air can get into them and the facets are dripping,” said Meek.

It was still warm enough Monday morning from Marietta streets department employees to be working outside.

“In between storms we cold patch the streets,” said Marietta Safety-Service Director Jonathan Hupp.

City employees also loaded up trucks with salt and snow in case of poor road conditions.

Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks issued a Level Two Weather Emergency for Washington County Monday afternoon, and discouraged anyone from traveling unless absolutely necessary.

The designation will likely be in effect until at least noon today, he said.