Parkersburg sets record low temperature

PARKERSBURG – Overnight temperatures reached a record low for Parkersburg and many other areas of West Virginia.

Parkersburg on Monday matched a 1942 low of minus 3 degrees, and on Tuesday reached 6 degrees below zero, breaking a 1988 record of minus 3 degrees.

“We are in the core of the arctic air,” Ken Batty, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston, said Tuesday. “Now we have only one way to go: Up.”

After announcing a two-hour delay Tuesday, Wood County school officials elected to close schools for a third consecutive day today.

“Just way too many uncertain variables,” said Mike Fling, assistant superintendent of Wood County school services.

He cited trouble keeping school buses running in the frigid temperatures, as well as heating issues at four schools. They were able to overcome those in most cases, although Edison Middle School was already closed for today.

And the delay did not provide a great deal of relief from the cold conditions, Fling said.

“By doing a delay, we were only able to gain about 5 degrees,” he said.

The cold weather is part of an arctic front which has plunged temperatures dramatically throughout portions of the middle and eastern United States. Tuesday marks the coldest day in the Mid-Ohio Valley since temperatures hit 10-below-zero on Feb. 4, 1996.

The low, however, doesn’t come close to the coldest day on recent record for the valley when the temperature dipped to an icy minus 24 degrees on Jan. 19, 1994.

Batty said relatively minor winters the past two years have spoiled residents.

“These kinds of cold winters do happen at our latitude, but we haven’t had to deal with them the last couple of years,” he said. “We were kind of overdue for this one.”

Schools in all 55 West Virginia counties and in Washington and Athens counties in Ohio were closed Tuesday because of the bitterly cold temperatures.

The cold is believed to be the cause of a sprinkler head break that closed the Seventh Street Kroger Tuesday afternoon, said Parkersburg Fire Department Capt. Brian Drake.

“We couldn’t find the part. It blew off,” he said.

The break caused the office and front cashier area at the store to be flooded with hundreds of gallons of water, tinted black by sediment that had collected over the years, Drake said.

“It probably made it into 10 or 12 aisles,” he said.

Damage and cleanup were estimated at $15,000, according to the fire department. The store was closed Tuesday evening until at least this morning. People needing to pick up prescriptions were directed to the Kroger on Division Street.

Other areas of West Virginia also saw record-tying and -breaking low temperatures. The National Weather Service’s website shows temperatures fell to 5 degrees below zero in Lewisburg and 4 degrees below zero in both Bluefield and Morgantown on Monday night. All three cities broke records for Jan. 6 that were set in 1988.

Among the cities reporting record lows Tuesday were Wheeling at minus 10, Beckley at minus 9 and Morgantown at minus 7. Beckley broke a mark that had stood since 1912. And Beckley, Parkersburg (6 below), Huntington (4 below) and Charleston (3 below) were among the cities to have their coldest readings for any date since Feb. 5, 1996.

The arctic front knocked out power to thousands of customers. About 3,700 FirstEnergy customers and 1,800 Appalachian Power customers in West Virginia remained without service Tuesday afternoon.

The National Weather Service said the morning low at Snowshoe Mountain Resort in Pocahontas County dipped to 20 below zero, but that didn’t stop skiers and snowboarders from taking to the slopes by midday.

There was no such activity at Canaan Valley Ski Resort in Davis, which closed its slopes because of dangerous conditions, said West Virginia Ski Areas Association spokesman Joe Stevens.

Canaan ski instructor Bill Smith said the combination of 18-below-zero readings and high winds made it feel like 70 below overnight. Readings had rebounded to 4 below by midafternoon.

A statewide wind chill warning expired Tuesday afternoon and temperatures in parts of the state are expected to rebound to the lower 50s by Friday.

(Staff writer Evan Bevins and the Associated Press contributed to this report.)