Thursday, January 23, 2003

Bundle up: This could be coldest this winter gets

By Randy McNutt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo] Icicles cover the hillsides along southbound Interstate 71/75 above the "cut in the hill" in Covington.
(Patrick Reddy photos)
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This morning ... brrrr ... marks the coldest day of the winter - so far.

Tonight is expected to be even colder.

That's not only tough on the toes, it's potential trouble for everything from overworked old school boilers to your home's pipes to your unprotected ears and your - well, you name it.

Greg Tipton, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington, predicted wind chills today of "around 15 below zero and maybe as bad as 20 below. Thursday night will be one of the coldest we've had for awhile. Lows will drop to zero to five below zero."

[photo] Ice forms along the Newport bank of the Licking River near its confluence with the Ohio River on Wednesday.
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The cold emergency in Cincinnati led to extra shelters being opened for the homeless. And some Tristate schools ran on late schedules today or canceled classes.

One agency is yielding a little to the extreme cold. Ohio's E-check stations will open two hours late today, at 10 a.m., but will stay open until 6 p.m., the regular closing hour.

Fortunately, Friday will start a gradual warming into the teens as the arctic air pushes east.

"The good news is that the highs will hit the low 40s early in the week," Mr. Tipton said. "The one good thing about this really cold weather is that it kills a lot of the germs. But when it warms up, all bets are off."

Jan. 5, 1999: minus 3 degrees.
Jan. 21, 2000: minus 5 degrees
Jan. 27, 2000: minus 5 degrees.
Jan. 21, 2001: zero degrees.
Source: Mike Gallagher, National Weather Service
Kelly Herrmann, president of Herrmann Plumbing in Colerain Township, suggests that homeowners take precautions to stop the cold air from freezing their pipes.

"If you're in an older home that's drafty and you've had freezing problems in the past, the best precaution is to leave an inside faucet turned on a little so it won't freeze. Hot water lines tend to freeze faster because there's less oxygen.

"An outdoor faucet should have been turned off months ago. A lot of older valves can freeze and not give you problems. ... But we always recommend turning off the valve inside the house. That could prevent a catastrophe."

Faucets can and will freeze inside the house.

"Kitchen, lavatory and bathtub faucets can run a little to prevent freezing," Mr. Herrmann added. "Outdoor faucets - no. And never leave a hose connected to a faucet in freezing weather."

If your drain line freezes, he said, you can pour rock salt down it to thaw it. "Putting chemicals into it will cause problems. But rock salt will help," he said.

Old schools are ready for trouble, too.

"Our maintenance director can monitor the situation from home by computer," said Joni Copas, spokeswoman for Hamilton City Schools. "So he can tell if any problem develops."

In the Cincinnati school system, a building's heating system usually goes out about once a winter, said Jan Leslie, a school spokeswoman. But the district is ready if it happens this week.

"We have spent $38 million to improve the boilers and repair the roofs," she said. "We have a plan to move students if necessary, but that doesn't happen often.

"We have staff on till 11 at night to check and a central monitoring system to make sure a water line doesn't break or a boiler doesn't go down in this frigid time."


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