Times Bulletin News Writer

VAN WERT - The first winter storm of 2014 swept into the Northwest Ohio area as expected on Sunday with heavy snow beginning to fall around 1 p.m. Luckily for Van Wert and nearby areas, the storm axis shifted slightly to the west putting the heaviest snow just west of this area, but Van Wert County Emergency Management Director warned not to downplay this storm.

“This is a historic life-threatening situation for the cold and wind chills,” said McCoy. “People are encouraged to stay inside and to refrain from driving. Stay inside and stay safe. Also protect pets and animals, and be sure to check on elderly neighbors.”

A winter storm warning was issued for areas of Northwest Ohio, and by 3 p.m. five inches of snow had already fallen in across the area with an additional 5-7 inches expected to fall throughout the day. The National Weather Service of Northern Indiana reported the heaviest band of snow generated up to two-inches of snow per hour.

The snowfall was only the beginning of the storm, and as winds reached 25-35 mph, near-blizzard conditions settled across the area.

“The real concern will be the cold temperatures and windchill,” noted McCoy “It is these factors that will make this weather system so deadly.”

Extremely cold arctic air is expected to move in behind the snow system and will bring wind chills nearing 40 below zero beginning Sunday night. A wind chill warning remains in effect until Tuesday.

Sunday night temperatures are expected to crash to minus 9 degrees below zero and will be the high temperature on Monday. Monday temperatures will continue to fall to minus 20 degrees. The windchill is expected to be at its worst early Monday into Tuesday at 40-45 degrees below zero. These temperatures are expected to remain in effect for 24 hours.

A chance for additional snow showers are now being forecast for Wednesday night into Thursday, and temperatures should recover to above-normal readings late this week.

With temperatures below zero and a windchill of 40 below zero expected in this area, it is important to stay inside and out of the elements. There is a severe risk for frostbite at such temperatures. It only takes minutes for exposed skin to become frostbitten when temperatures fall below 20 degrees and the wind is blowing at 20 mph or more, and conditions are expected to be much worse than these throughout the beginning of the week.

People are also encouraged to pay special attention to their pets during times of such cold. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), pets with diabetes, hearth disease, kidney disease, or hormonal imbalances have a harder time regulating their body temperatures and are more at risk during times of such cold. Young and old pets also suffer from this same risk.

For animals that are unable to come inside, AVMA recommends that these animals have unlimited access to fresh, non-frozen water, have a thick bedding to keep them off the cold ground, a dry environment, a heater or heat lamp, and a shelter from the wind. Just like humans, pets are susceptible to hypothermia and frost bite.

Jan. 5 marked the first winter storm of 2014, but this day also marks two other weather events that made history in the United States. In 2010, an unusually long-lived lake effect snow event occurred and by the time snow ended on Jan. 5, snowfall totaled between 1-2 feet. In 1982, a fierce storm closed the Golden Gate Bridge for only the third time in history. Between 5-11 inches of rain fell on the area resulting in mudslides, 30 fatalities, and $300 million in damages.