As if forecasters haven’t painted an ominous enough picture of the bitter cold and snowy conditions expected to begin hitting the area today, the forecast grew a bit darker Saturday night.
“Our winter storm and wind chill watches have been upgraded to warnings,” National Weather Service meteorologist Brian Mitchell said Saturday night. “That means they are more certain and imminent,” Mitchell said.
Snow was expected to begin falling lightly this morning and continue more heavily through the afternoon and into the evening, with anywhere from 5 to 9 inches of snow anticipated before tapering off Monday as temperatures plummet to a daytime high of 4 above, with wind chills as low as 29 below zero.
These dire predictions saw waves of shoppers hitting grocery stores Saturday to stock up in anticipation of possibly being stuck at home for a few days.
Checkout aisles were clogged with long lines of shoppers with carts heaped with food and other items from late Saturday morning through about 7 p.m. Saturday evening at the Giant Eagle supermarket near Midway Mall.
A store manager declined to comment, citing company policy about talking to the media.
Corporate spokesmen could not be reached Saturday night. At the Elyria Apple’s Market on North Abbe Road, business was unusually strong all day long, according to Sheila Lee, who works in the store’s office.
“It’s just now starting to slow down,” Lee said about 9 p.m. Saturday. “It normally slows down about 5:30 p.m.”
Shoppers stocked up on everything from water to pop.
“It was just about everything,” Lee said. “People were taking precautions with the snow and frigid temperatures to come.”
Dale’s Market and Deli on Cleveland Street in Elyria was another hotspot for folks stocking up, according to Heidi Beal, the store’s night manager.
“It’s usually busy right around dinner time but they were out shopping all day,” Beal said. “People were rushing to get the last-minute stuff before the storm hits … bread, milk and beer. And we sold a lot of lunch meat.”
A winter storm warning issued Saturday evening was to be in effect 4 a.m. today through 4 a.m. Monday, while a wind chill warning is to begin at 4 a.m. Monday and run through 9 a.m. Wednesday, Mitchell said.
“The winds behind the next front (to say nothing of low temperatures) coming through are expected to be pretty strong,” Mitchell said. “We’re looking at wind chills of minus 30 to 40 across the region.”
Record-shattering cold may feel even colder as it comes on the heels of the weekend’s moderating temperature readings that climbed into the low 30s Saturday and were expected to do so again today.
The bottom is projected to fall out overnight tonight, with a low of around 2 above accompanied by minus 13 wind chill readings and wind gusts up to 30 mph, according to the weather service.
Conditions look to deteriorate even more Monday with daytime highs of 4, wind chills as low as minus 29, and wind gusts increasing to nearly 40 mph.
Blowing snow and show showers are to continue Monday and Monday night, with overnight lows of about minus 14, and wind gusts continuing near minus 40.
Tuesday looks to bring more of the same with a high of 2 above, and overnight low of minus 1.
School officials are keeping a close eye on the thermometer and weather forecasts to help them determine when and if classes will be called off, although some closings Monday and Tuesday appeared likely.
The worst may be over by Wednesday with a daytime high of near 18 followed by Thursday’s forecast high of about 30.