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April 11, 2024

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Spring Housing Guide

Polar vortex shuts down county; damages homes, University buildings

During the snow emergency last week, most commerce in the county shut down as record-breaking temperatures and a foot of snow pounded the region.

At -15 degrees with strong winds, breaking the record of -12 set in 1924, it was too cold for salt to even work on the ice, said Theresa Pollick, public information officer for the Ohio Department of Transportation District 2.

“Once the highway garage tells me they can’t keep the streets clear anymore, we go into a level three [snow emergency],” said Mark Wasylyshyn, Wood County Sheriff.

Wasylyshyn declared the first level three snow emergency since 2006 at 7 a.m. on Jan. 6, making it illegal for anyone to drive on the roads unless they had a good enough reason or were a needed employee such as a doctor. Four people didn’t have good enough reasons to be out and were cited for misconduct during a snow emergency, a fourth degree misdemeanor, according to the Bowling Green Police blotter.

Many businesses closed due to the emergency, including the University, which was closed from Jan. 6 to Jan. 8.

“It was less about the snow and more about the high winds and low temperatures,” said University Spokesperson David Kielmeyer. “The students weren’t here so that gave us a little leeway with the faculty and staff [to close down].”

Kielmeyer said it’s harder to close down when students are here because the University still needs to provide basic services such as dining.

The last time campus closed due to the weather was in 2010 for a day and a half, Kielmeyer said.

While many people got a few days off work, Wasylyshyn received criticism because of the timing of the snow emergency, which was declared around the morning rush. It lasted until 9 a.m. on Jan. 8, when the county went down to a level one snow alert, warning drivers to be cautious on roadways.

“A lot of the decisions I make as sheriff … there will be one group of people that will be very unhappy if I didn’t make it and one group that would be unhappy if I did,” he said. “I make decisions in the best interest of the people of Wood County.”

For junior Tavion Roberts, who was in Bowling Green during the storm, the weather wasn’t anything new.

“It wasn’t that big of a deal to me because I’m from Cleveland in the snow belt so I’m used to things like that,” Roberts said, who had to stay in his Copper Beech apartment for two days, missing work in Rossford, Ohio, on Tuesday.

Roberts had to call off work because Copper Beech’s snowplow didn’t work so he couldn’t get out of the parking lot, he said.

While he was cooped up inside for two days, Roberts had already gone grocery shopping, so he mainly spent his time hanging out with his roommate.

Unlike Roberts, some people still had to make the icy trek to work, despite ODOT temporarily closing some routes and highways.

Since Jan. 1 the highway patrol recorded 60 crashes in the county, said Sgt. Jared Ulinksi, of the state highway patrol’s Bowling Green post. This is nearly double the 39 crashes recorded for the whole month of Jan. 2013, Ulinksi said.

In subzero temperatures, stranded motorists can be in danger if they don’t have the proper safety provisions.

“When its -15 below, it can take seven to 10 minutes for frostbite to set in,” Ulinksi said.

If another polar vortex hits the region in the future, both Ulinski and Wasylyshyn advise drivers to pack their cars with blankets, food, flashlights and charged cell phones.

Hypothermia and frostbite aren’t the only worries during these storms as subzero temperatures can lead to power outages and pipes bursting.

While there was only one reported power outage in the city at Copper Beech, the fire department responded to four burst pipes. The University also had three bursts in some Greek houses, one in West Hall, damaging equipment in the BG24 newsroom, and one in the University House, where President Mazey resides, Kielmeyer said. The damage is still being assessed.

“We escaped fairly unscathed,” Kielmeyer said. “The timing standpoint is a blessing since we [were] still on break. The students might not agree; they might have hoped for a couple days off.”

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