Three Dog Nights

How soon we forget.

We’ve been spoiled in recent years when it comes to really cold and snowy winters. This week’s deep freeze combined with snow alerts have sent the Ohio Valley into a tizzy.

We rush to get those snow tires on that we have been procrastinating about since October. We search for the heavy boots and warmer parkas deep inside the closet. Gloves, some mismatched, are tucked into various coat pockets.

Maybe we had it on our to-do list to turn off the outdoor faucets but never got around to it and will wind up with frozen pipes. Did we get into the crawl space under the house or climb into the attic and add another layer of insulation like we had planned in September? Heck no. It was still hitting the 80-degree mark back then.

If anyone should be prepared for the extreme cold that hit us this week it would be our local municipalities. Back in the late 1980s, several things happened that revealed just how prepared we could be for anything Mother Nature decided to throw its way.

First came the icy winds of January followed by clear frigid temperatures. We’re talking the kind of cold that freezes your breath as you exhale and sends ice crystals into your lungs when you inhale. Any exposed skin instantly falls victim to the bone-chilling air and it hurt.

Schools closed along with non-essential services such as libraries and other big old buildings that struggled to keep the heat inside. Authorities warned us to pile on the blankets rather than use unsafe heating methods in our homes. Fires were a real concern, for they are nearly impossible to fight in these elements. Water from hoses can freeze before it hits its target.

To add injury to insult, the wind whipped around, too, sending wind chills into the double-digit minus category.

And then there was no water. Yes, Wheeling lost its clean water supply due to an issue with the river. The idea of residents being stuck inside without water coupled with the fear of fires sent city safety forces into action. The Office of Emergency Services and the Wheeling Fire Department worked hand-in-hand with city officials to devise a plan for Wheeling to get water from its good neighbors across the river in Ohio.

It was one of the most difficult times as the mercury dropped for days and the water supply was at a critical level. Yet all the right people came together to brace for the worst until things improved on the river – which was nearly frozen over – and the temperature warmed.

More than anything it proved that we have survival skills we didn’t know we even needed until Old Man Winter reared his cold, ugly head. So this weekend, stay warm, pass the hot chocolate and invite the dogs onto the bed. January is almost over.

Heather Ziegler can be reached via e-mail at