Senior center to open as ‘warming center’ Saturday

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   After driving slick roads to deliver hot lunches to local seniors, Denise Niese found herself Thursday evening at Gordon Foods stocking up for some unscheduled guests this weekend. For the first time in 17 years, Niese, director of the Wood County Committee on Aging, is preparing to open the Wood County Senior Center as a warming station for local senior citizens on the weekend. “It’s the first time that I’ve been here that it’s been this cold for this long,” Niese said after she wrapped up her grocery shopping. The senior center, at 305 N. Main St., Bowling Green, has been opened in the past as a cooling center in the summers when the heat index reaches 100 or above. But when Niese returned from delivering meals on Thursday, she was approached by several people at the senior center about opening the facility up on Saturday as a warming station. The center is normally closed on the weekends. Niese agreed and went a step further. “I asked them what they wanted for lunch,” she said. So after work, she was at the grocery getting ingredients for stuffed pepper soup, “real potato soup,” grilled cheese sandwiches and chocolate chip cookies. “I’ll be peeling potatoes tomorrow,” Niese said. She has no idea how many seniors to expect. “I am planning for 50.” Normal lunch time at the senior center on weekdays draws about 85 people in search of a hot meal, conversation and maybe a game of cards. The weather this week cut that number to about 60 each day. The senior center also delivers approximately 550 meals a day to seniors’ homes throughout the county. “We’ll get all the meals out this week,” Niese said. While the staff delivers the meals, they also make sure the seniors have their “shelf meals” that were dispersed this fall, and can be eaten if the power goes out. They also make sure there are a couple frozen meals that can be warmed up in the microwave or oven just in case the daily meals can’t be delivered. As the senior center deals with the challenges of the cold weather, it is also facing a double whammy of staff illnesses. “I had nine people off today with the flu,” Niese said. That means Niese got behind the wheel to drive a route of 38 home meal deliveries in the northwest section of the county, from Cogan’s Landing on the edge of Bowling Green to Grand Rapids. “The 2 ½ hour route took me 3 ½ hours,” she said. And she only got the vehicle stuck once, while backing out of a driveway. Just as she went off the roadway, a pickup truck came along and the driver had a chain to pull her vehicle out. “People are…

Bitter cold takes toll on city workers and equipment

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green residents count on city workers to plow snow off the roads, respond to car crashes, and keep the power on during winter weather. Doing that in bitter cold weather takes a toll on city equipment and on the people that operate it. Snow plow blades are more likely to break in this cold, police cruisers have to run continuously during shifts, and fire hoses have been known to freeze. “We subject our officers to being out in the elements for extended periods,” Police Chief Tony Hetrick said. That’s tough on people and patrol cars. Layering only does so much, and “they run constantly in the cold,” the chief said of the police cruisers. For the Fire Division, the frigid cold means EMS crews must move even faster for outside calls. “We need to move quickly to get patients out of the elements,” Fire Chief Tom Sanderson said. Firefighting is especially tricky in freezing temperatures. “We have to keep them flowing,” Sanderson said of the hoses. But that means the ground quickly gets covered in ice. The city’s public works department often spreads salt at winter fire scenes to try to give firefighters and their vehicles some traction. “We haven’t had to chisel our fire hose out of the ice yet this week,” Sanderson said. Public works crews face their own problems, with the extreme cold taking a toll on equipment, according to Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter. Snow plow blades tend to break very easily, she said. And trash containers become increasingly brittle and are more prone to breaking, she added. The city utilities department recommends its consumer-owners take the following precautions to help prevent water lines and meters from freezing this winter: Protect exposed pipes from cold air drafts by closing and sealing windows and openings in basements or crawlspaces. Protect your water meter by wrapping it with insulation or a blanket. Provide proper insulation for walls and pipes where necessary. If your water meter is in the garage, take precautions to protect it and keep the garage door closed. If pipes cannot be shielded from the cold or the residence has a history of frozen water lines or meters, run a small stream of cold water from an indoor faucet to keep water moving through your pipes. Make sure the drain is open and clear to allow water to escape. Keep your thermostat set above 55 degrees, even if you will be away for several days. Turn off water to your washing machine. Try to have a friend or neighbor check your home periodically while you are away to ensure the heating system is working and that there are no water leaks. If your pipes freeze despite these precautions, do not try to thaw them with a propane torch….

Light snow & frigid temps in the forecast for Wood County

Brad Gilbert, Wood County EMA director has issued the following advisory: A “clipper” type storm system will move just to our south tonight and into the early morning hours of Saturday.  The heavier snow bands will stay well south of Wood County; however, light snow will fall across Wood County tonight as a result of this storm system.  2” or less will fall across the area by Saturday morning which is enough to make roads slippery once again, so please use extra caution when driving tonight and early Saturday morning.  3” – 5” of snow will fall across west central and central Ohio with this storm system if you plan on traveling south tonight or tomorrow.  Those areas are under a Winter Weather Advisory.  Very cold arctic air will once again move into the area behind this storm system creating a dry but very cold New Years weekend.  Please check on elderly neighbors, pets, and other functional needs people this weekend as temperatures plumet below zero once again.

How to protect people, pets and pipes against the cold

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   We might as well get used to it. The cold dipped down to minus 4 degrees early this morning, and temperatures aren’t expected to get to 20 or above for another week. For some, the frigid temperatures are more than a cause for discomfort. The brittle cold can lead to burst pipes, frozen paws, frostbitten fingers and car problems. Some professionals in Bowling Green accustomed to dealing with the complications of cold weather offered some advice on how to protect people, pets, pipes and vehicles during these frigid temperatures. First, how people can prevent harm to themselves … “I wouldn’t be out more than a half hour at a time,” said Kevin Hosley, registered nurse at Wood County Hospital Emergency Department. And bundle up. “Any exposed skin should be covered.” People with lung problems or the elderly should avoid being out in this brittle cold, Hosley added. The most serious risk to humans is hypothermia, when the body’s temperature drops dangerously low, said Alex Aspacher, community outreach coordinator with the Wood County Health District. “Basically, your body starts to lose heat faster than it can replace it,” Aspacher said. One symptom of hypothermia is confusion, so “somebody might not know they have it,” he added. Hunters and homeless people are susceptible, but in these frigid temperatures some people are at risk even if they aren’t outside. Especially vulnerable are babies or older people in very cold homes. “Older people lose body heat faster” and babies aren’t able to generate heat the way others can to keep themselves warm, Aspacher said. If hypothermia is suspected, the person’s temperature should be taken. If below 95 degrees, 911 should be called, he said. Any wet clothing should be removed, and the person should be placed in a warm room and bundled in blankets – an electric blanket if available. The other risk with the cold is frostbite, when skin is exposed, commonly on the face, hands and feet. Aspacher explained that in frigid weather, the body prioritizes which areas to keep warm, so the extremities are likely to suffer first. If frostbite is suspected, the area should be warmed with an electric blanket or warm water – not hot water, Aspacher cautioned. The frostbitten areas should not be massaged, and the person should avoid walking on frostbitten toes and feet. The health district also advises that people should be prepared for power outages by having a three-day supply of water, canned food, medications and pet foods in their homes. A cold weather kit should also be stocked with duct tape, a weather radio and a wrench to shut off burst pipes. Next, how to protect your pets … House pets aren’t accustomed to any extended exposure to these type of temperatures, said Janet Duty, of…

White Christmas in the forecast

A white Christmas is possible based on a weather updated from Bradley Gilbert, Wood County EMA director. Gilbert reports: “Two storm systems will impact our area this weekend.  Both will bring a chance of accumulating snow.  The storm tracks have shifted slightly since last night. “Details are as follows: “A storm system will move to the southeast of NW Ohio late tonight into Saturday morning.  Snow on the northwest side of the storm will just barely impact Wood County bringing a dusting of snow to around 1” in some areas (especially southeast Wood County) by mid-day Saturday. “Another storm system will impact NW Ohio Sunday afternoon and evening.  Snow accumulation on Sunday will be 1” – 3”.  Christmas day will start out cloudy with some areas of sunshine by late morning and into the afternoon with colder temperatures.” Arctic cold will settle into the area for Tuesday through most of the week.

Wood County to get as much as four or more inches of snow

Brad Gilbert, Wood County EMA director has issued the following advisory: “A Winter Weather Advisory is in effect for Wood County until midnight tonight.  Stronger areas of snow have been developing across Northern Indiana over the past couple of hours and should be into the Wood County area around 5:00 – 5:30 p.m.  There will be periods of moderate snowfall with some periods of light to no snow in between snow bands through about 10 p.m. this evening.  The NWS is forecasting 3” – 4” across the Wood County area this evening with pockets of slightly higher amounts possible depending on where stronger snow bands move across the county.  If you have to travel this evening, please slow down and use extra caution as roadways and visibility may be challenging at times through the evening.”

Former BG family visited by hurricanes Harvey & Irma

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Sorrells family had two unwelcome guests in the past month – the first named Harvey, followed by Irma. “Stay away from us, we seem to be jinxed,” Larry Sorrells said on Saturday. Larry and Janet Sorrells, longtime Bowling Green residents, moved to Punta Gorda, Florida, in April. Their daughter Jennifer and her family live in Houston, Texas. As Hurricane Harvey approached, Jennifer, her spouse and their daughter, went to Austin for safety. “They were very lucky,” and their home suffered no damage, Larry Sorrells said. But as Larry and Janet Sorrells were worrying about Harvey’s wrath in Texas, Irma showed up on the radar. “We saw this thing for a long time,” but forecasters were uncertain where Irma was headed exactly. “We were glued to the TV” waiting for updates, Sorrells said. “We were watching the storm, and it’s a monster,” leveling some Caribbean islands on its way to Florida. Sorrells is accustomed to preparing for emergencies and public health crises. As the former health commissioner for Wood County, he spent years making sure the public was safe. But this was different. “This is our first hurricane, and maybe our last. I wouldn’t mind that,” he said. “I have a lot of training in emergency preparedness,” Sorrells said. So he and Janet planned ahead and made hotel reservations in Atlanta, Georgia, and they prepared their home with storm shutters and other precautionary steps to be battered by Irma. “There’s a lot of stuff to get ready for these things so you don’t come home to an even bigger mess,” he said. When the evacuation order was issued, they were ready. “We knew not to stay in a mobile home during a hurricane,” he said. “Homes can be replaced, human lives can’t.” But their plans changed as it became almost impossible to get gas, and as the highways became blocked with traffic headed the one direction for safety – north. The Sorrells were also wanting to help out other neighbors in their retirement community in Punta Gorda. So they scrapped the Atlanta plans and instead sought shelter in Red Cross sites set up in Sarasota County. The first shelter they went to was not open. The second one was already full. The third one – an elementary school designed to withstand hurricanes – was just right. “We were assigned to Mrs. Weaver’s kindergarten classroom,” along with about 22 other people, he said. The entire school took in about 1,000 people seeking shelter. “We felt safe there the whole time.” Safe, but not exactly comfortable. The Sorrells learned a valuable lesson that many Floridians who have experienced hurricanes already know – bring bedding or sleep on the floor. “The people who knew what they were doing brought cots or air mattresses,” he said….

Florida woman thanks Pemberville for helping get power back

In the wake of Hurricane Irma, electricians from Bowling Green and from Pemberville traveled down to help Floridians whose power was knocked out. The three linemen from Bowling Green were Trent Tyson, Randy McBride and Tim Brubaker. The two electricians from Pemberville were John Lockhart and Dean Ridner. This morning, the village of Pemberville received an email from a family displaced by the hurricane, who expressed their thanks for the electricians who traveled so far to help. Molly Brown approved her letter being shared….. Village of Pemberville, We are in Tallahassee, FL. Last night, by the grace of God, a potentially catastrophic and life changing Hurricane Irma was diverted slightly inland, saving all of the homes here and significant changes in everyone’s lives. We fled here from Jacksonville, which initially was supposed to be harder hit. Then the storm track changed. It was coming here, and I was stuck with my three small boys in a hotel while my husband, who is a police officer in Jacksonville, had to stay behind. It was a lot of stress, watching the storm come and not being able to get out of its way. We lost power at 3 am, myself and my three little boys. Today, we just got back on power. Not a long time, but having it back after all the build up of stress was AWESOME! And then, driving through the parking lot of the hotel, I saw the electric truck with the people who fixed the power. The truck has your village logo, Pemberville, Ohio. THANK YOU. Thank you for sending people to help us. Thank you for letting go of your resources. I’m sure some people will say, well sure, those guys are getting paid. Of course they are, and they should be. Handsomely. None of us can get the power back on. Those electricians (of course I’m sure it’s another title) drove that big truck halfway across the country to help people they don’t even know when we need their help. You are appreciated. I myself am a public servant, and I’m going to guess they don’t hear it enough, so please tell them: THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. For a mom with three little boys, worried about her own house back in Jacksonville and not knowing the status of said house, the power is a great thing. I wish I could have made it downstairs to say thank you. I saw the hotel manager talking to them, hopefully saying thank you. The left right away, I’m sure helping to make some more people smile. Your guys are wonderful. From the city of Tallahassee, Florida, y’all are much appreciated! Please thank the electricians who came down here. Please consider something to recognize that their help is appreciated and your village was seen doing…

BG linemen to help get power back to Florida after Irma

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   With Hurricane Irma leaving most of Florida in the dark, cities across the nation are sending down electric workers to lend a hand. The city of Bowling Green sent three linemen – Trent Tyson, Randy McBride and Tim Brubaker – to the Tallahassee, Florida, area to help get power back to the region. The three men are planning to work in Florida for a week to 10 days. “We’ll see how that goes,” said Brian O’Connell, director of Bowling Green’s public utilities. “If they need more help, we may send another crew down to help.” Though the three linemen are acquainted with the work, they are expecting this to be unlike any disasters they have encountered up here. “There are just piles of debris everywhere,” O’Connell said – including power poles that are scattered around like pick-up sticks. “This is a much larger scale, and they’re not familiar with the system.” After cleaning up the torn down lines and poles, then new ones must be installed. “It’s just a major endeavor,” O’Connell said. Three years ago, Bowling Green needed help from other communities when a strong line of winds knocked down power poles along Dunbridge Road on the east side of the city. Like Bowling Green, Tallahassee is a member of the American Public Power Association. When one member is in trouble, others respond, O’Connell explained. “It’s a fairly common practice in the industry,” he said. “We just needed to keep enough people back to make sure we’re covered.” The linemen will help with reconstruction, by first taking care of down trees and power lines, and repairing broken transformers. It is specialized work that requires electrical expertise. “They need bodies who know how to put stuff back together,” O’Connell said. Bowling Green’s employees and the two city trucks are waiting in Alabama until the storm finishes its path through Tallahassee. They traveled in a convoy of regional community linemen who met up in the Wapakoneta area. The host community will reimburse Bowling Green for its time and expenses. The linemen, who will be paid for their time, have to volunteer for the job. “We’re fortunate we have guys like this,” O’Connell said of the linemen.

BG man among Red Cross volunteers feeding Harvey victims

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Roger Heider folded up his cot at 5:30 Sunday morning so the church he was sleeping in could hold services. He returned around 10 p.m., after spending the day delivering hot meals to families hit by Hurricane Harvey near Houston. Monday will be more of the same. “We’ll get up at 6 and start it all over again,” Heider said. Heider, of Bowling Green, is one of many Red Cross volunteers who responded to victims of Hurricane Harvey. This is the third national disaster he has responded to with the Red Cross, including wildfires in the San Diego area, and a hurricane in the Biloxi-Ocean Springs area. “I was hoping there wouldn’t be a need for my involvement,” Heider said about watching the storm coverage as the hurricane approached Texas. But when Harvey drenched the region with unfathomable amounts of rain, Heider was ready to go. “They were happy to have another warm body to go,” he said of the Red Cross. Heider, a retired social studies teacher for Toledo Public Schools, was teamed up with Larry Coats, of Elmore, and the two started heading south in a Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV). Once they arrived in the Houston area, the two were charged with providing mobile feeding throughout neighborhoods, where residents were cleaning out their waterlogged homes. As they drove through the Spring Creek area in Montgomery County, they saw patches of homes untouched by the flooding. “And then there were homes that were totally underwater,” Heider said. “The water receded about two days ago,” he said. And in that time, the homeowners had pulled soaked appliances, carpeting, insulation and furniture out to the curbs. Some had no electricity, and some had no safe water. So, many welcome a hot meal. Heider and Coats served up that day’s menu of chicken and rice, corn, snacks and water. While serving up food, the volunteers took time to listen to the families’ hardships. “It was heartbreaking,” Heider said. One woman was getting four meals for her family, when she told them her family’s situation. “She just broke down.” While her family was cleaning out their flood damaged home, someone broke into the home her family was renting and stole all their belongings. A man shared with Heider his hardships of having open heart surgery in 2015, five feet of flood water in his home in 2016, and seven feet of water this year from Harvey. And another woman in need of food had brand new appliances sitting at the curb. She explained that she had not yet had time to install them since last year’s flooding. “It was just so devastating,” Heider said. After dark, Heider and Coats returned to the church where they were staying, with nearly 120 cots set up…

Waterlogged Pemberville and Wayne see worst flooding

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As soon as Brad Gilbert entered the room, there were groans. The Wood County Emergency Management Agency director was not on the agenda, so his unexpected arrival at the Wood County Commissioners meeting this morning could only mean one thing. There were problems. They don’t call Gilbert the “grim reaper” for nothing. After 10 inches of rain in some areas of the county this week, the county was overwhelmed. And a revised report from the National Weather Service suggested that the problem would get worse before it got better. “They are predicting a major flood stage tonight into tomorrow morning,” Gilbert said. The biggest problems are being seen in Wayne, where storm sewers couldn’t keep up with the rain, and are expected next to hit Pemberville, where two branches of the Portage River come together in the downtown area. By time the water crests tonight or Friday morning, it will likely be in the basements of the downtown businesses, Gilbert said. Just this morning, Gilbert said, fire crews from Pemberville, Bradner and Wayne had to use a boat to rescue a woman from her home that was surrounded by high water along Ohio 281. “It’s an act of Mother Nature. There’s no way to control it,” he said. And after multiple consecutive days of heavy rains, especially in southern Wood County, the ditches and fields are their limits. “There’s no where for it to go,” Wood County Commissioner Doris Herringshaw said. The EMA office has been in contact with the Pemberville mayor and fire chief, and has been asked by Wayne officials for sandbags. “It’s too late for sandbags at this point,” Gilbert said. Plans have also been made with the American Red Cross. “The Red Cross is in place, ready to go if they are needed,” he said. On the other side of the county, the Maumee River is not threatening Grand Rapids, he added. “The village is in pretty good shape.” Pemberville and Grand Rapids are accustomed to their rivers flooding, but the problem is new to Wayne, which does not sit along a waterway. Gilbert surmised that the village’s aging storm sewer system may need cleaning. On Wednesday, Bowling Green officials warned residents about flooding issues. Because of the large amount of rain, storm water systems are at or nearing capacity, the city cautioned. Areas that normally do not flood may experience standing water or flood conditions. “During large rain events, roads sometimes act as areas of additional storm water retention to allow traditional retention areas, such as ditches and ponds, to drain and accommodate the additional water,” city officials stated. “When rain falls rapidly and heavily, as it has in recent days, it takes time for this water to enter the system.  This is made increasingly difficult due to…

Heavy rains turn roads to rivers, lawns to lakes

Heavy rains have turned some roads into rivers and some yards and fields into lakes in Wood County. Overnight Tuesday into Wednesday morning, areas of the county got 2 to 2.25 inches of rain. That came after Monday’s dowsing of 3 to 3.5 inches of rain in the county, according to Wood County Emergency Management Agency Director Brad Gilbert. “We are very, very wet,” Gilbert said Wednesday morning. “There’s a lot of water standing in the fields. Ditches and streams are at or near capacity.” The Portage and Maumee rivers are experiencing some limited flooding. The levels were headed downward late this morning, but Gilbert expected them to rise again with more rain predicted. Bowling Green and Perrysburg had some street flooding, and power outages were reported in northern Wood County. The Buckeye Phone System experienced problems, leading to the county offices and sheriff’s office to be without phone service this morning. The emergency 911 system remained in service, Gilbert said. Gilbert said he had been in contact with the American Red Cross, just in case there are any emergency needs. “These nice little dry periods in between are helping out a little bit,” he said. “But we’re still looking at a potential of 2 to 3 more inches of rain.”

Heavy rains on their way Wednesday & Thursday

From Brad Gilbert, county EMA director: A storm system similar to the one we experienced a couple of weeks ago will move into the area overnight tonight (May 23) and will be slow to move out of the area by late on Thursday (May 25).  Although similar in nature, this storm system does not have quite the amount of moisture to work with as the last big storm system; therefore, serious flooding is not expected at this time.  Light rain will move into the area Wednesday morning with heavier rain possible Wednesday afternoon and evening.  Because of the recent rains, ditches, streams, creeks, and rivers will likely rise fairly quick and low lying areas that typically see flooding issues may experience those type of issues.  Significant river flooding issues are not expected.  Ponding on roads and in city streets will be the primary issue, so please use extra caution when driving.  Some thunderstorm activity may be embedded in the widespread rain Wednesday afternoon, but severe weather is not expected at this time.  Rain will continue on Thursday; however, rain should be lighter in nature than it will on Wednesday.

BGSU to test warning sirens, May 9

BGSU will perform outdoor warning siren testing from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. Tuesday, May 9. Periodic testing will consist of warning tones and voice commands at four to six locations across campus. Each test will last for 10 to 15 minutes. These sirens typically activate if Wood County goes under a Tornado Warning, for the regular monthly test or for the statewide tornado drill normally held every March. The May 9 test will be rescheduled if there is a chance of severe weather.

Threat of severe weather tonight (April 20)

BRADLEY J. GILBERT, WOOD COUNTY EMA DIRECTOR There is a severe weather threat for this evening (April 20) across NW Ohio.  Overnight the Storm Prediction Center increased the severe weather risk category across Northwest Ohio to “Enhanced.”   Atmosphere dynamics along with very warm temperatures and increased dew points (humidity) this afternoon will cause thunderstorms to develop across Eastern Illinois into Northern Indiana and then into NW Ohio.  Scattered showers and thunderstorms are possible late this afternoon, but the bigger complex of thunderstorms will move into the area after 5 p.m. Current models indicate this complex of storms to be in the Wood County/Toledo/Findlay area around 7 p.m. or 8 p.m.  this evening.  The primary threats will be damaging straight line winds and large hail; however, an isolated tornado or two is also possible over Northwest Ohio and especially just north of the Ohio/Michigan line. Heavy rain will also be possible which may cause some flooding issues after yesterday’s rainfall.  More than likely, some type of severe weather WATCH will be issued for our area by late this afternoon.