Arctic air, snow blast Ohio

Ohio prepared to contend with wind chills expected to hit as low at minus 25 on Thursday and Friday, with communities opening additional shelters and schools canceling or delaying classes across the state.

As winter storm warnings expired, wind chill advisories took their place, and the National Weather Service predicted the coldest chills in western and west-central parts of the state. At 7 a.m. Thursday, the weather service said Dayton had a temperature of 6 degrees and a wind chill of minus-8.

In Youngstown and at Cleveland Hopkins airport, air temperatures were zero and wind chills were 13 below. Numerous Ohio schools delayed their Thursday morning opening times, while some chose to close, including the Akron public schools.

In southwest Ohio, Butler County reopened its former jail as an emergency shelter, with room for about 40 people to have a blanket, meal and shower, said Lt. Nick Fischer of the sheriff's office.

Fischer said the county will make room for more if needed. Ohio's deep freeze was part of a system that stretched from Montana to northern New England and dipped as far south as North Carolina. It followed a day of near-zero temperatures across the state and snow that closed schools, grounded aircraft and led to at least two fatal highway crashes.

"Awful," said University of Dayton student Lauren Weining, who put on two pair of pants and three sweaters under her coat to make a 10-minute walk to her campus job. "It's the longest 10 minutes I ever had this year."

Around the state, blowing snow grounded at least two medical helicopters called to transport accident victims. At the site of a wreck on Interstate 75 near Bowling Green, an ambulance had to drive two people to hospitals in Toledo.

In Union Township near Cincinnati, a pick-up truck and car crashed head-on, and an ambulance took one person to a Cincinnati hospital.

Snowy conditions caused a 14-car crash on I-75 near Tipp City north of Dayton on Wednesday, and a truck that slowed to avoid the wreckage slammed into a car. The car's driver, 55-year-old Pamela Owens, was killed, said Tipp City patrolman Greg Adkins.

To the north in Van Buren, another person was killed on I-75 in a three-vehicle crash involving a snowplow. William Czarniak, 76, of Marietta, Ga., died when the vehicle he drove southbound hit the back of the Ohio Department of Transportation plow, spun and collided with a third vehicle, the State Highway Patrol said. Several school buses were involved in crashes in northwest Ohio, including a Findlay district bus that was rear-ended when a motorist lost control of his car on a slippery road Wednesday morning.

Eight high school students were taken to an area hospital as a precaution. Snow cut visibility in Chicago, where airlines canceled about 250 flights at O'Hare International Airport on Wednesday afternoon, including some scheduled to arrive in Cleveland, Columbus and Dayton. In Cleveland, where it was snowing and 10 degrees at lunchtime Wednesday, Terry Gill, 23, was bundled up with four layers of clothes. He had a secret for staying warm.

"I just try not to think about it," Gill said while waiting for a bus in a shelter surrounded by piles of snow from nearly 17 inches that have fallen in one week. "I mean, it's cold. That's Cleveland weather."

Honda Motor Co. canceled Wednesday's second and third shifts at its plants in Marysville, East Liberty and Anna, affecting about 5,000 workers. The decision was made to protect workers from having to travel to and from the plants in treacherous conditions, spokesman Ron Lietzke said. Despite the low temperatures, deep bodies of water around Ohio were slow to freeze up. Lake Erie fishing guide Pat Chrysler said it will be another week before the ice around South Bass Island is safe for anglers.

"It's one big slush bank out there," he said.

Still that didn't stop some from trying, including a group that had to be pulled off the ice Wednesday morning. The three were standing on an unsafe, thin layer of ice that was covered by 9 inches of snow, said Dan Barlow, chief of the Catawba Island Township Fire Department.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)