The big chill

Selena Rockenfelder’s 2012 Christmas wish was to give blankets to the poor. With the help of family, friends and a generous community, she collected about 150 blankets to give away.

Rockenfelder made the same wish this past Christmas and more than doubled the number of blankets and other items collected to be given away.

Rockenfelder, 9, her mother, Samantha Strawderman, and her grandmother, Betty Strawderman of Betty’s Angels were at Warren Family Mission Friday afternoon passing out some of the blankets. Earlier in the afternoon, they went under the Summit Street bridge and left some blankets for people who may stay underneath it on cold winter nights.

“I just wanted to give blankets to poor people,” Rockenfelder said. “I just want to help.”

Betty’s Angels is a program created more than 30 years ago by Betty Strawderman that provides temporary housing for homeless children whose families are having financial and legal problems.

“She is around these children all of the time,” Betty Strawderman said. “She wanted to do something to help others.”

Warren Kazda, who received one of the blankets, called the gift touching.

“It just shows that sometimes children have kinder hearts than some adults,” Kazda said.

Samantha Strawderman was not surprised about her daughter’s Christmas wish.

“She has always put others ahead of herself,” Strawderman said.

With low temperatures projected to be below 0 degrees Sunday night through Wednesday, the blankets will be needed by the homeless and others.

Meanwhile, the winter snows that happened earlier this week and are expected next week have been good for area snow plow operators.

For Anthony Carl, the cold, snowy weather has been good for his paving business because it has kept his trucks on the roads.

“There was a lot of snow, but it was not hard to push,” he said of this week’s snow fall. “It was a light snow. Heavier snows are hard on the equipment.”

Anthony Carl Paving, 1730 Columbus Ave., Niles, primarily does commercial snow plowing, clearing parking lots of stores and shopping centers, although it has some residential driveway accounts.

“When it is 1 or 2 inches on driveways, people generally will drive over the snow,” he said. “It is when it is more that people start calling for snow removal for their home driveways.”

During the winter months, the company operates around the clock.

“It depends on the amount of snowfall we have,” he said. “We can begin plowing shortly after midnight and operate through the night. The latest we can start is 3 a.m. because we want to have all the parking lots, the sidewalks and handicapped entrances clear before stores open at 7 a.m.”

Gregg Alberini, highway superintendent with the Trumbull County Engineer’s Office, said the county had drivers on the roads for 24 hours a day on the snow days this week , first clearing the main roads, treating hazardous areas, as well as intersections and corners with stop lights.

“We were well prepared for this,” Alberini said. “We have 25 vehicles and 32 drivers available. We have plenty of salt and ICM available.”

Because the snow was light and fluffy, the road crews were concerned about it being blown back onto the roads after they plowed it.

“With the temperatures expecting to drop so low next week, we will be treating the roads with both salt and an anti-skid material that will create traction if the snow melts and refreeze,” Alberini said.

The National Weather Service in Cleveland is forecasting some very cold tempertaures to hit the Mahoning Valley starting this weekend. Today is to be in the lower 30s with wind chill values as low as 12 below.

Sunday, there is a 100 percent chance of snow with highs in the upper 30s with a moderate snow accumulation. Monday the high will be around 10 and the lows 10 to 15 below zero with blowing snow. Tuesday will only see a high of zero and lows of 5 to 10 below zero.

Temperatures are expected to get a little warmer by Thursday and Friday around 30.

Karen Conklin, executive director of the Mahoning Valley Red Cross, advises residents to keep warm during the anticipated cold weather for the area.

She said motorists should keep blanket, high-calorie snack and water in cars in case of car not starting due to a battery going dead.

”A lot of vehicles sit out in the cold and the batteries goes. If someone has blankets, they can stay at least warm. We want people to be smart and safe,” she said.

As of Friday, the Red Cross office in Warren has received no calls locally relating to the weather but suspects if people lose power or heat they will get calls.

”The Burton area recently had sporadic power outage. If this area has a mass power outage, we would open some kind of shelter,” Conklin said.

She said anyone needing help due to no heat or power during cold weather can call 211.

Bevi Powell, senior vice president of AAA East Central, recommends that drivers make sure their vehicles batteries are in good condition.

“It is a good idea to get them tested, and, if necessary, replace them,” Powell said. “Dead batteries are the number one reason we get calls for emergency. Over the last two days, we received more than 1,400 calls for assistance.”

Drivers also should make sure their tires are properly inflated and all of their fluids are filled, she continued. They also should make sure their vehicles are cleared of snow and ice, because they can become projectiles that can endanger other cars on the road.

The AAA East Central region cover parts of five states, including Kentucky, Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia and Ohio.

Warren Fire Chief Ken Nussle says people generally are operating space heaters more when the outside temperatures dip down to frigid temperature and their houses cool on the inside.

“If you’re using space heaters, make sure they are UL and FM listed,” Nussle said. “Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and make sure there are no combustible materials within three to four feet of them.”

Space heaters should not be the home’s primary heat sources.

“Someone should always be near them,” he continued. “They should not be left on when people are asleep.”

By this time of the year heat sources should have had their annual checks.

“If the furnaces have not been checked have their checked and check the flues in fireplaces to make sure they are clear,” Nussle said.

While he does not recommend the use of portable kerosene heaters, Nussle said those using them should refuel them outside of their homes and they are cool when they are refueled.

“You also have to make sure the house is ventilated during their operations, because you have to worry about carbon monoxide poisoning,” Nussle said. “Have a nearby window cracked.”

Nussle said stoves and ovens should never be used as heat sources.

Carbon monoxide and smoke detectors should be operating in homes and apartments for resident safety.

Tiffany Minor, of the Animal Welfare League of Trumbull County, recommends that pet owners bring their pets inside their homes when temperatures drops.

“If their dogs must be outside, be sure to have lots of straw in dog houses that are large enough for them and the owner should frequently check to make sure they have enough water,” Minor said. “They should be checked several times a day.”