December 22, 2014

Elyria
Mostly clear
37°F
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Area endures frigid weather; Lorain County blood supplies low

Postal Worker George Vergara shivers his way through his route in the Eastern Heights neighborhood. Vergara says the only way to keep warm is layers upon layers. BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

Postal Worker George Vergara shivers his way through his route in the Eastern Heights neighborhood. Despite the below-zero temperatures Tuesday, mail was still delivered. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

When folks talk about the area warming up when the temperature reaches a whopping 5 degrees, that’s a good indication that it was pretty darn cold.

The wicked cold weather saw all area schools closed, some government agencies shut down, and many outdoor service jobs suspended in the face of wind chills not seen as low in roughly 20 years.

And while a large number of residents struggled with the temperatures in their homes after Columbia Gas suffered an outage and left them without heat, area emergency crews and hospitals reported that there were no serious injuries as a result.

A University Hospitals Elyria Medical Center spokeswoman reported that three people were taken to the emergency room for frostbite on their fingers Monday and Tuesday.

Spokeswoman Kristin Davis said although the illnesses and injuries were minor, the hospital stayed busy.

“The ERs have been busy. They’ve been seeing an increase in car accidents and falls on the ice, so things like minor head injuries and sprains and fractures,” she said.

Mercy Hospital spokeswoman LeAnn Hastings said there has been an increase in the number of flu and respiratory virus patients at Mercy, but the illnesses aren’t weather-related.

“We’ve really only seen a handful of weather-related issues, and it’s not anything significantly increased from what we’ve typically seen,” she said.

The arctic conditions, which hit a low of minus 11 overnight Monday into Tuesday, also were to blame for LifeShare Community Blood Service’s supply getting dangerously low.

That’s because the weather caused many business and local schools to cancel scheduled blood drives this week. The conditions also eliminated donations at the charity’s seven neighborhood donor centers across the region, according to a news release from LifeShare.

“This is a very dangerous situation. A single auto accident or trauma victim can use 50 donations and it’s the blood already tested and on the shelves that saves the life. If there is a major accident or difficult surgery, organ or marrow transplant in the next few days, our only hope is for folks to donate immediately,” said LifeShare spokeswoman Lisa Mayles, via a news release.

LifeShare, which is the only source of blood to Lorain County, has asked the public to help out during one of the few blood drives still scheduled — at the RV Super Show at the IX Center 1 to 7 p.m. today, Thursday and Friday.

All blood donors at the show will receive free admission to the event, which is billed as the largest indoor RV show in the nation.

A three days’ supply of blood is what LifeShare considers a minimum safe quantity.

Although many school districts and some businesses shut down for the day, the U.S. Postal Service was out in full-force, according to Ohio Postal Service spokesman David Van Allen.

“Postal service is considered an essential service, so we make every effort to get out there,” he said on Monday.

Van Allen said there is an emphasis on delivering critical mail first, such as prescription medications. He said the Postal Service asks residents to clear snow and ice from the pathways to make it easier for the carriers.

He said postal carriers also are informed of safe cold-weather procedures, such as dressing in layers to prevent hypothermia. Postal carriers also wear special cleats during snow storms.

Van Allen applauded the hard work of carriers but added that working in the snow and cold is not unusual for workers.

“We have some tremendous employees,” he said.

The workers should get a respite from the cold soon, according to Kirk Lombardy, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Cleveland who predicted high temperatures in the upper 40s Saturday.

“People are going to be out dancing outside with no coats on. It will feel like a heat wave,” he said, laughing.

The weather was bone-chilling on Tuesday at a low of minus 11 degrees recorded at the Lorain County Regional Airport, but it didn’t near the historic low of minus 20 degrees recorded at Cleveland Hopkins Airport on Jan. 19, 1994.

The weather in Lorain County reached a high of 5 degrees, according to the service.

Lorain County will remain under a wind chill advisory until 9 a.m. today. The National Weather Service said residents should keep aware of any weather updates at www.weather.gov.

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @ChelseaMillerCT.