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After brief respite, bitter cold set to return

by on January 11, 2018 7:28 AM

While most of Centre County was probably inside keeping warm on Jan. 5, Alabama native Tamarik Fitzpatrick was working his construction job renovating McKean Hall on Penn State’s campus.

In the sub-zero wind chill he worked for eight hours dressed in multiple layers — pants, three shirts, two pairs of thermals, three pairs of socks and two pairs of gloves — with his face completely covered.

“And I’m still cold. It’s freezing. There is nothing you can do but be cold and deal with it,” said Fitzpatrick. Despite the cold, work must go on. Fitzpatrick is glad to have the job, but would be fine with a warmer weather trend.

“I’ve worked in worse cold in Indiana, but this is pretty bad. I am ready to get inside and sit in front of the heater.”

Fitzpatrick and the rest of us are finally getting at least a small break from the single-digit temperatures. According to Accuweather.com, milder temperatures will continue for a few days before more temperatures well below freezing are expected to return Sunday, Jan. 14, and last for at least several days thereafter.

The recent run of sub-freezing temperatures was not typical for this area, said Dave Dombek, senior meteorologist at Accuweather. With the temperature not getting above freezing for two weeks beginning on Christmas Eve, things were feeling frigid in Centre County for quite a while.

“It is not unusual for us to be this cold, but for it to last this long without warming above freezing is unusual,” said Dombek.
Especially concerning to Dombek was the added effect of wind that made the air feel even colder.

“If you are out in this cold for any extended period of time — we are talking 10, 15, 20 minutes — without proper clothing, it is very dangerous.”

This is a great concern for people in the area who may not have a warm place to stay, said Ginny Poorman, executive director of Hearts for Homeless in State College. Poorman has been keeping her shelter open extended hours for the past two weeks, so that people in need have a warm place to be. Poorman has seen people come into the shelter with mild frostbite, and said teenagers and the elderly are especially vulnerable to frostbite.

“Teenagers might not think or worry about the cold as they should,” said Poorman. “And it takes the elderly longer to get where they need to, so that extra time can cause serious problems.”

Many area fire halls, including Port Matilda and Rebersburg, offered warm spaces for people in need.

“We are open to people in case they lose power and don’t have a warm place to be with heat. Luckily, we weren’t needed yet during this cold spell, but we are always there for people in the community in need of shelter,” said Lorrie Price, president of the Port Matilda Fire Company.

The extreme cold can cause many issues in a home, from frozen pipes to malfunctions of heating units. Workers at Goodco Mechanical were busy all week trying to help customers fix these issues.

“We had more than double our typical calls this past week. One of our workers put in 89 hours this past week, so, yeah, we were busy with calls about frozen pipes and broken heating systems,” said owner Scott Good.

If pipes freeze, it is important to warm them up slowly, said Good, or you might get a broken or burst pipe. It helps to keep the water running in pipes that are prone to freezing during extreme cold because running water is less likely to freeze than standing water, said Good.

Cars are another worry, because batteries might not work as well during cold weather. Walk’s Towing saw an 80 percent increase in battery-related issues during the cold snap. To prevent a cold-weather problem, get the battery tested, said dispatcher Rob Porter.

“You might think everything is fine, and then the cold hits and your car won’t turn over, and that is never a good start to the day,” said Porter.

At Way Fruit Farm, owner Jason Coopey was watching the weather all week, but said the cold did not cause any issues for his fruit trees.

“The trees are adapted for this kind of weather, and unless we get down to a temperature of negative 15, they are suited to deal with it,” said Coopey.

Wind chill does not affect the trees as it does humans and animals, and Coopey said a long string of cold is better for the plants than if the temperatures go up and down. He said plants from this region are suited to deal with the snow and cold, but it is different story with farms further to the south. The recent cold snap extended all the way to Florida.

“I’m sure there are some farmers down that way who are pretty worried. I think Florida had a strawberry crop set to come up, so that could be an issue for them,” said Coopey.

With the cold weather, it is important to think about pets, as well. They can easily get frostbite on their ears and paws, so it is important to keep them warm and protected from the cold, said veterinarian John Griffiths. Griffiths had not seen any animals come in with issues from the cold yet this year at Metzger’s Animal Hospital in State College, but he has seen it in the past.

The weather also affected Schlow Centre Region Library. On Jan. 6, plumbing and temperature issues caused the building to close early. According to communications director David Pencek, backed-up toilets caused flooding, although no damage occurred.

The library reopened to the public at 2 p.m. Jan. 9.

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