Created on Monday, 06 January 2014 Written by MITCH STACY, Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Schools were closed across Ohio and officials warned people to stay inside if possible Monday as the state braced for a blast of dangerously cold weather.
Ohio State University, University of Cincinnati, Miami University and the University of Toledo also closed Monday as temperatures in the state were expected to be the coldest in more than two decades. Ohio State, the state's largest university, hasn't shut down because of the cold since 1994.
The arctic blast was coming as Toledo and northwest Ohio were digging out from a storm that dumped more than 8 inches of snow on the area Sunday and early Monday.
Snow emergencies were in effect in Hancock, Defiance, Fulton, Henry, Lucas and Wood counties, with school and most local activities canceled for Monday. Much of the rest of the state also got several inches of snow overnight, making for a messy commute for those who braved the weather and went to work.
Forecasters say low temperatures around zero — with possible wind chill factors of 40 below zero — are possible through Wednesday. The entire state was under a rare wind chill warning, which means frostbite could affect exposed skin within 10 minutes outside.
And the highs aren't expected to get out of single digits.
Lorna West, a 43-year-old student and consultant from Columbus, said she doesn't believe residents of Ohio and other areas unaccustomed to brutal temperatures and winds are ready for what's coming.
West, a Chicago native, said thermal underwear, lots of layers and "Eskimo coats" with zipped hoods to block the wind were the norm growing up. "And don't go out if you don't have to."
"If they're right about this, this is going to be serious," she said. "Your car can freeze, your locks can freeze. If you're a native Ohioan and you're not used to this kind of thing, and if the weatherman is right, you're in for a rude awakening."
That was true for 20-year-old Devonte Williams of Toledo. He set out for 10-block walk to a gas station Monday morning on an errand for his grandparents in just a sweatsuit and ski cap. It took him about two blocks to regret it.
"I think I underestimated the weather," he said. "My legs are numb. They feel like icicles."
By 8:30 a.m. Monday, AAA Ohio Auto Club had logged 400 service calls and was on track to triple its normal number of daily calls. Spokeswoman Kimberly Schwind said they were mostly a mixture of dead batteries and motorists spinning out on slick roads.
Many flights at the state's major airports were delayed or canceled. Most of the arrivals and departures from Cleveland Hopkins International Airport were scratched Monday morning.
The Ohio Emergency Management Agency warned people to stay inside Monday if possible, check on their neighbors and make sure fireplaces and other heating sources are properly vented.
The cold snap is due to "polar vortex" that descended into much of the U.S. on Monday, bringing dangerous cold that could break decades-old records and wind chill warnings stretching from Montana to Alabama.
Associated Press writer Julie Carr Smyth in Columbus and John Seewer in Toledo contributed to this report.