There is cold, and then there was Monday.
An arctic blast blew into Fort Wayne on the heels of a Sunday storm that dumped about 10 inches of snow, according to the National Weather Service.
Factor in the wind chill, and temperatures were as low as minus 42 degrees. In fact, AccuWeather.com's "RealFeel" barometer put Monday at minus 52 degrees. A rush of frigid, dense air from the arctic region known as a "polar vortex" is to blame, said Amos Dodson, a staff meteorologist from the National Weather Service.
"A jet stream is what brought it this far south," he said. "Things should start to warm up by (tonight)."
Today, a wind chill warning is in effect until 8 p.m. That means conditions are so severe that a person's exposed skin can develop frostbite or hypothermia in a matter of minutes, Dodson said.
"We're advising people not to come out if they don't have to be," he said. "If you do go outside, dress in layers and don't have any skin exposed."
Despite the freezing weather, the coldest Fort Wayne has ever been was Jan. 12, 1918, when the mercury dipped to minus 24 degrees. Though Dodson said the area should gradually see higher temperatures, the wind chill will remain inhuman at minus 25 to minus 30 degrees today.
The state of emergency for Allen County was lifted Monday evening. However, a travel watch will be in effect until 7 a.m. Wednesday. During a local travel watch, only essential travel, such as to and from work or in emergency situations, is recommended.
Most schools will remain closed today, including IPFW, except for essential employees who normally report in "adverse weather."
Because of the extreme conditions, there will be no garbage and recycling collection in Fort Wayne today. In addition, the next collection for customers who normally have Monday pickup will occur Jan. 13. Residents with normal pickup on Tuesday through Friday will have garbage and recycling run a day behind.
All Indiana state government offices where public business is conducted will open at 10 a.m. local time today. Essential personnel will report to work at their regularly scheduled time.
State Department of Transportation crews were working 12-hour shifts Monday to keep area highways open.
Toni Mayo, director of communications for INDOT, said some plows were breaking down. The most common problems were air filters getting frozen shut by fine snow and carbide-tipped blades breaking as they dig into the ice pack on roads.
"In these temperatures, it's going to happen," Mayo said.
Gov. Mike Pence on Monday declared a state of disaster emergency for 29 counties affected by the severe weather and said the "State of Indiana stands ready to assist Hoosiers as needed." Northeast Indiana counties that are part of the declaration include Kosciusko, Noble, Steuben, Wabash and Whitley.
Pence directed the National Guard to deploy 48 highway assistance teams to rescue stranded motorists and help emergency medical services reach people who need medical attention.
On Monday, roads and retail districts in the Summit City were ghost-town-like, with most vehicles spotted being snow removal and cable company trucks. Government agencies, schools and other organizations were closed. Only a few major retailers opened Monday, besides gasoline stations, pharmacies and hospitals.
"We didn't open until 1 p.m.," said Eric Beuchel, a manager at Best Buy at Apple Glen. "We called our associates in the morning and told them if they didn't feel safe enough to come in to stay home."
Most of the workers were absent. That gave shopper Jose Diaz free rein in the electronics store. He showed up at Best Buy a little after the outlet opened.
"I was going to the gym (to work out), but it was closed," the 25-year-old factory worker said. "I figured I'd go buy a movie."
With Allen County under a state of emergency Monday, Chris Cripe said he was surprised to see a few cars on the road.
"They said you shouldn't drive, so I walked," said Cripe, 31, who trudged a couple of blocks to buy snacks at the BP service station near Time Corners. "My wife works at Lutheran, so I also wanted to see just how bad the roads were. They did a pretty good job and they look better than I thought."
The only thing that could get Joe Coder out in this kind of weather was a meal.
"I was on my way to the Rescue Mission and then I saw this lady stuck, so I helped push her out because the car wasn't going anywhere," said Coder, 35, who walked briskly down West Main Street with a companion before they stopped to assist a woman churning her rear-wheel-drive Cadillac in a snow pile on Fulton Street.
"We just wanted to help out," Coder said.
It was a warm-hearted gesture on a stone-cold day.
As for snow, none is in today's forecast, but the area certainly got its share this weekend. Sunday's storm netted 9.7 inches, Dodson said.
So far this winter, the city has had 27.7 inches of snow, which is 15.2 inches above normal but below the record snowfall of 28.4 inches set in 1978 during the same period.
Frank Gray of The Journal Gazette contributed to this story.
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