Meadville Tribune

January 7, 2014

Area school districts close ahead of frigid Tuesday

By Mary Spicer
Meadville Tribune

MEADVILLE — With temperatures predicted to drop so low that local school districts canceled today’s classes on Monday, Crawford County is definitely part of the massive cold wave sweeping the nation.

Warned that a dramatic temperature drop was in store, superintendents from Crawford Central, Conneaut and PENNCREST school districts announced shortly after 1 p.m. Monday that schools would be closed today and all extracurricular activities canceled. Titusville Area School District’s announcement followed soon after.

“It made no sense to wait until (this) morning to make a decision that’s inevitable,” PENNCREST Superintendent Connie Youngblood said Monday afternoon. “Stay in. Stay warm. Eat soup.”



It’s cold outside ...

Anyone ignoring Youngblood’s advice should bear in mind that spending time in cold temperatures may carry some very serious risks.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can produce it in response to cold temperatures. When prolonged exposure to cold uses up your stored energy, hypothermia — an abnormally low body temperature — is the result.

Warning signs in adults include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech and drowsiness. This means that a person may not realize what’s happening to them until it’s too late.

In infants, warning signs include bright red, cold skin and very low energy.

If body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit, “the situation is an emergency — get medical attention immediately,” according to the CDC, which notes that a person with severe hypothermia may be unconscious and may not seem to have a pulse or to be breathing. The CDC cautions that emergency medical assistance is required.

Shivering, a warning sign for both hypothermia and frostbite, should not be ignored.

Frostbite, an injury caused by freezing, causes a loss of feeling and color in the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers or toes and can accompany hypothermia.

The first sign of redness or pain in any skin area may be an indication that frostbite is beginning. Signs include a white or grayish-yellow skin area, skin that feels unusually firm or waxy, or numbness.

Rubbing or massaging the affected areas can make things even worse. Ditto for using heating pads, heat lamps, stoves, fireplaces or radiators near numb areas that can easily be burned.

According to the CDC, a person suffering from frostbite should get into a warm room a soon as possible and immerse the affected area in warm — not hot — water. The water should be comfortable to the touch for unaffected parts of the body. The affected area can also be warmed using body heat.



Be careful out there ...

Local school districts have different criteria for deciding when it’s too cold to play outdoors. In Crawford Central, for example, recess moves indoors when the temperature (including wind chill) hits 20 degrees, while Conneaut School District starts keeping kids indoors closer to the 25 degree mark.

School newsletters and websites are a rich source of tips for dealing with cold weather.

For example, calling the school to find out if there’s a two-hour delay or it’s closed altogether is discouraged. Parents, for example, are notified by automated phone systems — so checking for messages is highly recommended. Tuning in to local radio stations, watching Erie televisions statements or checking the district website are also highly recommended.

Boots, hats, gloves and snow pants make spending time outdoors a warmer experience, while keeping a sweatshirt in a student’s book bag means that it’s readily available if the classroom is a bit chilly in the morning.

It’s also important to remember that weather is a valid excuse for staying home from school.

When school is back in session, “If we go forward with a full day or a delayed day and the parents feel otherwise — that it’s too cold or road conditions aren’t satisfactory — they can always keep children home,” Crawford Central Superintendent Charlie Heller said. “It’s an excused absence as long as they send a note.”

“We all live here,” Conneaut Superintendent Jarrin Sperry agreed. “We know what it’s like. You have to use your best judgment.”

It’s been colder

Extreme temperature data accumulated over a period of almost 80 years shows the Meadville-area temperature dipping to an all-time low of 23 below zero in January 1948. Near-record lows of minus 22 were reported in January 1994, February 1963 and February 1934, while a minus 19 was recorded in 1985. The most recent double-digit dip below zero — exactly minus 10 — was recorded in 2009, Hydrometeorological Technician Martin Thompson of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service in Cleveland told the Tribune Monday.



Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at mspicer@meadvilletribune.com.