Residents try to stay warm as temperatures near zero

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With some area municipalities registering temperatures in the single digits Tuesday and frigid weather expected again today, many residents had one mission: Stay warm.


Burgettstown had the lowest temperature in Washington County, bottoming out with a bone-chilling 3 degrees Fahrenheit about 9 a.m. Tuesday. When wind chill was factored in, the temperature plummeted to -13. Other areas were dealing with biting winds, including California (-10 degrees with wind chill), Houston (-10) and Washington (-9). The record low for the area was -14 in 1936.


“You’re at risk of frostbite and hypothermia,” said Lee Hendricks, meteorologist at the National Weather Service. “Anyone out for any prolonged period of time should wear proper warm clothing.”


A wind chill advisory remains in place until 11 a.m. today, but Hendricks said the cold weather should break over the weekend, with temperatures reaching into the upper 30s next Monday.


In Canonsburg, at least one person was heeding advice to bundle up. James Leonard, of Canonsburg, was outside the Liberty Tax Services office on West Pike Street dressed as a human-sized Statue of Liberty. Underneath his green toga and spiked tiara was a wealth of winter gear, including three pairs of pants, long johns, three shirts, two pairs of gloves, two hats and a scarf.


“I walk around to keep warm,” Leonard said. “It’s cold out here and very chilly, but I’m managing to do my job and keep up with it.”


Pennylvania Department of Transportation officials said the lack of precipitation was a big help in keeping roadways free of ice. But even what seemed to be a dry road could pose a threat with temperatures this low.


“Black ice is always a concern,” said PennDOT press officer Valerie Petersen. “We would just remind motorists to be safe while out there driving. Reduce speed, use reasonable judgment in regards to speed limits to keep control of their cars. Stop when needed and expect the unexpected.”


Peterson urged drivers to make sure their windows and headlights are free of ice and snow and to make sure they are driving on winterized tires.


Southwestern Pennsylvanians were urged to take steps to keep their homes warm and their energy costs low.


“Heating and air conditioning are the No. 1 users of electricity,” said West Penn Power spokesman Todd Meyers. Meyers suggested leaving the thermostat set between 65 and 70 degrees when at home and dropping the temperature by 10 percent when nobody was expected in the house for more than six hours. Every degree below 70 can result in savings of about 3 percent from the average monthly heating bill. Meyers also pushed for residents to take steps to winterize their homes.


“You may want to consider weatherizing with the right insulation,” Myers said. “This includes materials under doorways and caulking windows and around pipes that go outside. If you can see daylight, that’s way too much space.”


Cold temperatures most likely played a part in a power outage at Fort Cherry School District buildings Tuesday, causing a cancellation of the school day. A First Energy spokesman said the outage, most likely caused by a downed line, affected 350 customers in the McDonald area, including the Fort Cherry High School building. The outage lasted from 5 a.m. until 8:30 a.m. School board member Leann Darnley said students were notified via an automated phone system.


School delays will again be in place at a number of school districts today, as school officials began sending out alerts Tuesday afternoon.


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