PARKERSBURG - Record cold temperatures are headed for the Mid Ohio Valley today through Tuesday as the mercury is expected to bottom out at 8 degrees below zero with wind chill values of minus 30 degrees overnight.
The intense cold should move out of the area by Wednesday, but until then area residents are advised to stay warm and keep an eye on neighbors.
"The really cold air moves in (today) with temperatures dropping steadily throughout the day. We're forecasting a low of minus 8 degrees in the Marietta and Parkersburg areas overnight Monday into Tuesday, which would be a record for Jan. 7," said meteorologist Joe Merchant with the National Weather Service in Charleston.
Photo by Sam Shawver
Becky Sharp, left, and Mike Thompson of Mineral Wells, W.Va., check out a wood-burning stove at the Tractor Supply store in Marietta on Sunday.
He said the previous record for that date was 3 degrees below zero in 1988.
"The cold air will remain Tuesday with a high of only around 10 degrees, and an overnight low of 4 degrees before the tail end of the cold snap moves out on Wednesday," Merchant said.
The frigid temps are the result of a "polar vortex" center of extremely cold air that is making its way across the northeastern section of the nation.
* With inclement weather expected, a number of area schools decided Sunday to call off classes for this morning.
Schools closed in West Virginia:
* Calhoun County
* Jackson County
* Pleasants County
* Ritchie County
* Tyler County
* Wirt County
* Wood County
Schools closed in Ohio:
* Belpre City Schools
* Marietta City Schools
* Warren Local Schools
* Wolf Creek Local Schools
* Fort Frye Local Schools
"A polar vortex doesn't usually meander this far south," Merchant said. "And the wind chill factor coming along with it will be a big issue."
He said winds of 13-22 mph - with expected gusts of up to 38 mph - will make the temperature feel as cold as 30 degrees below zero at times through 3 p.m. today.
At temperatures of 15 to 30 below, frostbite can occur within minutes on unprotected skin, and hypothermia - low body temperature - can set in.
According to the Ohio Emergency Management Agency, frostbite causes a loss of feeling and a pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes or the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, seek medical help immediately. Frostbite can lead to amputation.
The warning signs of hypothermia are uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion. If the person's temperature drops below 95 degrees, seek immediate medical care.
With the possibility of snow and cold temperatures, many stores throughout the area were busy Sunday as people gathered supplies and necessities if they are going to be at home for the next couple of days.
Adrian Edwards, a customer service representative for Foodland's Gihon Village store in south Parkersburg, said they were seeing a lot of people Sunday.
"It has been really busy today," she said.
Many people were stocking up on canned goods, milk, eggs, bread and other things for the next few days in case they get stuck at home, Edwards said.
The NWS is calling for a possibility of 1-2 inches of snowfall by this morning following some rainfall the previous night.
"Every time they say it is going to snow, it gets busy," Edwards said.
Lowes in Vienna saw a lot of sales of rock salt, snow shovels, heat tape, batteries for flashlights and more on Sunday, said Justin Tribett, assistant store manager. The store also sold a number of heaters, both electrical and kerosene, and there has been a "spike" in generator sales this weekend, he said.
Parkersburg Public Works Director Rick Lemley said city officials were watching the weather and expected to have a full road crew in trucks loaded with salt and sand to treat local roadways after midnight Sunday and into the early hours this morning.
Merchant said by Wednesday the daytime temperatures are projected to moderate into the upper 20s, with overnight lows in the teens.
"Later in the week we should see highs back in the upper 30s or low 40s," he said.
Until then, staying warm will be a priority for local residents.
"Dress in layers to stay warm if you have to be outdoors, it takes less than 5 minutes to get frostbite if your skin is exposed. And be extra careful with heating devices," said Jim Wiblin, firefighter with the Marietta Fire Department.
He said people using free-standing electric heaters should make sure they're located at least two feet from any wall, furniture or other combustible surface. And ventilation is required with heaters using kerosene or propane, due to potential carbon monoxide poisoning.
"You can't see or smell carbon monoxide gas," Wiblin said. "Crack a door or window open to provide ventilation if you have to use those heaters."
Installing a carbon monoxide alarm can help prevent CO poisoning when using fueled heating devices.
Ohio State Fire Marshal Larry Flowers said the use of candles, heating sources and makeshift cooking methods can significantly increase fire risks. He urged using kerosene heaters and space heaters according to manufacturer instructions, keeping them at least three feet from combustible materials.
Kitchen oven ranges should not be used to heat homes and generators or other fuel-powered machines should be used outside only. Ohioans using candles should keep the flame away from combustible objects and out of children's reach.
Flowers also said smoke alarms should be installed on every level of a home, inside and outside of sleeping areas.
State officials were also urging Ohioans to check on older adults who may have more difficulty adjusting to the extremely cold temperatures expected across the state for the next several days.
The Ohio Department of Aging warns that older adults lose body heat more quickly than younger ones and are more susceptible to hypothermia. Officials encourage checking to ensure that older adults have adequate, working heating systems and whether they are using heating devices that could pose risks of fire or carbon monoxide poisoning.
Those making the checks also should determine whether older adults have sufficient medical, food and water supplies. They also should have access to a phone that works, even if power goes out.
Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks said if at all possible people should stay indoors during the super cold weather.
"I wouldn't be surprised that we may issue a Level 2 emergency alert," he said Sunday. "People shouldn't go out unless necessary during that time. If they do go out - even for a short trip - take a cell phone to let people know where you are, and put some extra supplies in the car like blankets, food and water in case you get stranded."
Mincks said vehicle fluids and tire pressures should be kept at recommended levels, and make sure all vehicle equipment is operational before venturing out into the cold. Dead batteries are also a common problem during extreme cold weather, he said.
Anyone who needs assistance to get out of the cold can contact the sheriff's office at (740) 376-7070.
Pets should not be forgotten during the cold snap, either.
"Anyone with dogs or cats should bring their animals inside, whether inside a basement, garage or barn - any place where they'll be sheltered from the elements," said Steve Herron, manager of the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley shelter in Marietta.
If pets cannot be brought inside, loosely-packed straw can be placed in boxes or dog houses to help insulate animals from the cold.
"Put the straw in without packing it down. The animal will pack it so it provides the best warmth and insulation," Herron said.
Water is also a primary concern for pets during freezing weather. Herron noted by law animals must have access to fresh water 24 hours a day, and during cold spells it doesn't take long for watering bowls to freeze over.
"If pets are to be kept outdoors, electric water bowls can be purchased at most local pet and large retail stores," he said. "The bowls can be plugged into an electrical outlet that heats the water to keep it from freezing during sub-zero weather."