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Cleveland, Cuyahoga County Preparing For Cold Snap

Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries operates the men's shelter in downtown Cleveland. [Elizabeth Miller/ideastream]
Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries operates the men's shelter in downtown Cleveland. [Elizabeth Miller/ideastream]

Northeast Ohio is bracing for days of life-threatening cold as another polar vortex is set to bring a high around minus one degree Wednesday.

Regional organizations, schools, and governments have in some cases announced reduced schedules, services, or are just closing to limit how many people are exposed to the weather.

Commander Christopher Chapin of Cleveland EMS urged caution especially for vulnerable populations:

“The youngest and the oldest are the most susceptible,” said Chapin, “so if you have small children, make sure they are completely covered and look in on your elders.”

Severe cold can trigger asthma, and cause frostbite or hypothermia with direct exposure.

City officials from Cleveland’s utilities are asking homeowners to take measures to prevent burst water pipes and conserve energy.

Cleveland Water Commissioner Alex Margevicius says customers should turn off outside spigots and plug up any cracks where cold air might be able to reach plumbing.

“A simple pencil stream of water somewhere in your house is just enough to move water through your connection,” said Margevicius. “As long as water is moving through that connection, far less likely to freeze up.”

Dominion Energy Ohio asked customers to voluntarily turn down thermostats and lower settings on water heaters, if they can do so safely, to reduce strain on the system.

Shelter Available

Greater Cleveland RTA says it will keep some transit centers open around-the-clock beginning Wednesday through Thursday night, in Maple Heights, Parma, Fairview Park, and Cleveland.

Cleveland will have rec centers open only for regular business hours, and not 24-hours as was the case with previous extreme cold.

City Chief Operating Officer Darnell Brown says lessons learned from the past cold weather brought the city to rely more on community partners.

“In the aftermath of that, when we did a debriefing, it’s best that we work with the coalition to figure out how to make sure the capacity is here and how to ensure that needs are met community-wide,” said Brown.

He says the Red Cross and others are ready to provide emergency services if conditions warrant that.

Cuyahoga County has contracted with outside providers to increase services for the homeless including food, clothing, and shelter. Matt Carroll with the Cuyahoga County Executive’s office says the next step is convincing people to come in from the cold.

“We have outreach teams from Care Alliance, from FrontLine, from the VA, from the Coalition from the Homeless, and from Bellefaire in the community trying to engage people who are sleeping outside, encourage them to come to shelter,” said Carroll.

Shelter Your Pets Too

The Cleveland Animal Protective League is warning pet owners that a fur coat and a dog house are not enough to get animals through the arctic weather.

“What is adequate shelter in 30 degree weather may not be adequate shelter in -20,” said APL president Sharon Harvey, “and I think we are prepared to say there is not a lot of outside shelter that is going to be adequate in these frigid temperatures.”

She says pets should be kept inside with only short bathroom breaks outside. 

“It is the law that if an owner can reasonably expect an animal to become sick or suffer as a result of the weather or anything that may happen to it, they need to step in to protect that animal from suffering.” 

Harvey says the APL has agents with the authority to investigate and, if necessary, to impound animals they believe are suffering.  

She also suggests washing salt off dogs' feet after walks because it may cut their foot pads and may carry chemical compounds the animals might lick. 

Court, Classes Cancelled

Only essential personnel will report to work at Cuyahoga County offices Wednesday, but previously scheduled hearings with the Board of Revision will go forward.

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas and Cleveland municipal courts announced they'll be operating on a limited basis. Hearings set for Wednesday are being rescheduled. Arraignments will be held only for people in custody. Jurors should check for rescheduling as well.

Schools have cancelled classes on account of the weather including Case Western Reserve University and the University of Akron. Cities including Cleveland, Lakewood, and Cleveland Heights are delaying trash pick-up so people don't need to brave the elements.