Saturday, January 25, 2003

To cope in cold, go north


Our corner of Ohio shivers and complains

By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo] Water from a ruptured water main bubbles up out of the street at Deerfield Place and Gilbert Avenue in Walnut Hills Friday afternoon. Neighbors say that the water has been flowing for several days but that the water works says that the weather has created so many problems that this rupture is a low priority. Salt trucks come every few hours and salt the road to keep the ice from forming.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
| ZOOM |
While Greater Cincinnatians struggle to stay warm and get to work and school on time, those in the Great White North are snickering at us behind their mittens.

They see rich, white snow drifts as the perfect playground for snowmobiles, and greet the cold as a blessing that blushes their cheeks - and rarely keeps their kids home from school.

They use automatic starters to warm up their cars, have homes well insulated against the cold, and handle each snowstorm with enviable aplomb.

How do they handle winter's wrath with far fewer of the school closings, water main breaks and boiler room breakdowns that plague Greater Cincinnatians?

Norma Cooper, spokeswoman of AAA's Chicago Motor Club, admits to giggling at Hawaiian visitors who wear hooded jackets in 60-degree temperatures. But she knows how dangerous the cold can be.

She advises drivers to dress warmly, wear lip balm and maximize their car's battery power by turning off the radio and heater before switching on the ignition.

"It's a matter of what you're used to," she said. And "your skin isn't used to it. Your cars aren't used to it. And you're just not prepared for it."

TIPS FROM THE NORTH
In these times of bitter cold, AAA-Chicago Motor Club offers this advice to its fairer-weather friends in Greater Cincinnati:
• Plan ahead. Check the forecast. If a winter storm is predicted, think twice about hitting the road.
• Read your car's owner's manual. Be sure to turn off the radio, heater and lights before starting the car to maximize your battery's starting power. If your car has a fuel injection system, don't press the accelerator.
• Remove ice and snow from windows, license plates and lights. Clear snow from the vehicle's hood, roof and trunk.
• Keep your gas tank at least two-thirds full to prevent the vehicle's fuel line from freezing.
With the wind chill factors, Cincinnatians have spent the new year trying to cope with sub-zero weather conditions. Today's temperatures could reach about 30, but cold winds from the northwest will make us feel like it's 10 degrees colder. Another shot of frigid air is expected to breeze through tonight. For Sunday, expect temperatures only in the 20s, and a low close to zero again.

The city of Cincinnati has responded to about 100 water main breaks this month because of the cold. Five of those occurred early Friday morning. One break on Parkside Place in Mount Adams affected 25 customers.

Gardell Smith, a Cincinnati Water Works assistant supervisor, gets irked by all comparisons with Michigan, Wisconsin, and other northern states.

"The more northern utilities are buried deeper but they still have the same type of difficulties," he said. "It's all relative. If you're far enough north, zero would probably seem like a heat wave."

Houghton, Mich., is used to the cold and snow. Every year, 20 to 30 feet of snow fall on this city where Scandinavian names are as ubiquitous as snowmobiles.

Schools Superintendent Dennis Harbour looked out his window Friday and chuckled. Seven feet of snow has fallen this year but there haven't been any school closings, not even a delay.

He said the district's 1,300 schoolchildren generally get just three snow days a year.

"We rarely ever call it off," he said. "The only reason we call it off is visibility. (Your) winters are just totally different. We get a lot of snow and very little sleet."

Dan Petit of Cleveland Metroparks said the agency's biologists have actually been blessed by the cold snap. The park system has a deer-culling program that donates venison to a downtown food bank.

"The cold is actually helping us there because it's keeping the meat frozen," he said.

To cope with the cold weather, he merely wears more layers than usual. He bragged that Cleveland is a lot more stoic than Cincinnati when dealing with the cold.

"We got you beat on that," he said. "Now don't get me started on baseball and football, because we could beat you there, too."

E-mail svela@enquirer.com




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