Ohio Valley in deep freeze

South Central Power Co. early today reported 722 outages in Belmont County and 240 in Monroe. That company serves 5,452 in Belmont County and 4,913 Monroe Countians.

Overall, throughout Ohio, 1,243 outages were reported by South Central, which serves 112,542 customers. Its customers in Fairfield, Highland, Hocking, Pickaway, Pike and Ross counties also were without electricity early today.

More outages were reported by American Electric Power in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia than in Eastern Ohio, according to Carmen Prati-Miller, AEP spokesperson.

In Ohio, there were less than 70 outages to AEP customers in the Rayland area, and these resulted from weather-related issues.

Approximately 200 were without power in the Warwood area because of a wire down, and those affected were north of Burger King in North 16th St. area. The outages occurred this morning after 4, and restorations were projected around 1 p.m. Prati-Miller said she understood the Emergency Management Agency was opening a warning center.

Outages also were reported in Marshall County because of weather issues.

Record-breaking wind chills and air temperatures have forced the Upper Ohio Valley into a deep freeze that has safety officials urging caution both outside and inside.

A wind chill warning remains in effect through 10 a.m. Wednesday as light snow and windy conditions will continue throughout today. Winds will be blowing 20 to 30 mph creating a wind chill factor of minus 25. The air temperature will not get out of the single digits and hover around 8 degrees today.

As a winter weather advisory is in effect until Wednesday, the Ohio Department of Transportation cautions drivers regarding icy road conditions.

In a traffic advisory, ODOT emphasized how quickly water on roads can change from wet to frozen. Such shifts in condition, in addition to falling snow, can cause travel difficulties. Black ice and reduced visibility during early morning hours are also risks.

Classes were canceled in nearly every school district in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia and in East Ohio. Ohio County school officials on Monday afternoon were monitoring weather temperatures and wind chill factors used to determine whether there will be two-hour delays or cancellations, according to Superintendent Dianna Vargo. Ohio County was one of several districts that made the decision to cancel classes for today early Monday evening.

“Certainly cold temperatures are a concern with students waiting at bus stops,” Vargo said.

Approximately 40 buses transport Ohio County students. Vargo explained that conditions on both the main and back roads are taken into consideration when deciding action steps.

Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack canceled live greyhound racing due to the extreme cold temperatures. Regular live racing schedule will resume on Wednesday with a 12:30 p.m. post time.

The ski area at Oglebay Park was closed Monday due to the weather conditions and remains closed today.

However, the Memorial Ice Rink at Wheeling Park may reopen today. Monday’s closure was due to the Zamboni machine being down. It may be repaired today in time for skating. Call 304-243-4185 for more information.

The Belmont Count Courthouse in St. Clairsville is closed today “for the safety of county employees and the public” officials said. In addition, all county courts, departments and agencies also are closed today with the exception of public safety and necessary offices.

Also in Belmont County, all 10 senior centers will be operating the next few days as warming sites. Program Coordinator David Hacker said, “All of our staff will be assessing our consumers’ needs whether that is on our home delivered meal routes, or within our centers. If you yourself, a neighbor, family member or friend have insufficient or no source of heat, please contact our office as we can help.”

Hacker further noted that they will offer transportation to seniors from their home to the warming center, regardless of whether they are center members during the weather system that is entering our area.

Hacker noted, “Assistance with bill payment or fuel delivery are not within our spectrum of services, however, our case managers are equipped with the referral resources to link our seniors to the agencies in our area who may be able to offer assistance. We will work on their behalf to assist with any of these needs.”

For more information on this service or any other offered by Senior Services of Belmont County, call 740-695-4142.

In Marshall County, there are several warming shelters available today for anyone who needs to escape the cold. Benwood, McMechen, Moundsville and Cameron City Council Chambers will be open 9:30 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. today and several other locations will be available as needed.

Those looking for shelter should call these locations ahead of time or call the Marshall County Emergency Management office at 304-843-1130 or 304-843-1500 to make arrangements.

According to Marshall County EMA Director Tom Hart, people should not venture out into the frigid temperatures unless it is necessary and to use precautions by dressing in layers when going outside.

“This weather is extremely dangerous especially for people with medical conditions,” Hart said. “We ask people to check on their neighbors, friends and family, the elderly and anyone with special needs.”

According to Hart, American Electric Power reported about 169 customers on Fork Ridge Road lost power Monday.