Ice cripples area; Kettering uses 4th calamity day

Ice cripples area; Kettering uses 4th calamity day

Nicolle Smith, a fourth-grader at Beavertown Elementary, does her homework by candlelight. Her home was without power after a powerful winter storm hit the area on Jan. 31.

By Kevin O’Donnell and Madison Wray

Anyone driving through Kettering on Feb. 1-2 might have thought the South Dayton suburbs had been hit by a tornado, war or hurricane Ike revisited. Streets were strewn with branches and limbs (of trees, don’t worry). Few brave souls dared to venture out to their cars, which were encased in inches of ice and snow. Whole neighborhoods were dark due to fallen power lines.

To many students’ joy, Kettering City Schools closed for Tuesday and Wednesday and had a two-hour delay on Thursday. However, many students and staff, including South Unit Guidance Secretary Carole Anello, still didn’t have power even as they returned to school. 

Anello said she lost her power Monday night as the huge winter storm swept into the area with freezing rain, sleet and snow. Dayton Power & Light officials reported that approximately 80,000 customers in the Miami Valley were without power on Tuesday.

“I am the only one on my street who doesn’t have power,” Anello said on Thursday. “The line that goes to the pole from my house tore down from a fallen branch.”  Even at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, nearly 2,500 homes and businesses still lacked power, according to DP&L.

Luckily, people without power could rely on the kindness of friends and family who let them spend the night or use appliances. “My husband and I stayed with my daughter Tuesday night,” Anello said. “It was too cold to even sleep at my house; the thermostat was below 40.”

With the ice and heavy wind on trees bringing down branches, many Kettering citizens spent their afternoons playing a giant game of pick-up-sticks.

“All my branches fell on my roof; now my whole backyard is covered in tree limbs,” said Fairmont junior Alison Dale. Junior Kristina Fothergill said she saw a small tree fall over into her neighbor’s yard.

The thick ice made travel, by car or foot, both difficult and dangerous. “Scraping the ice off of my car was impossible and my driver’s side door was frozen shut, so I had to get into my car from the passenger side,” said Dale.

The slippery situation took some Fairmont students by surprise. “When I stepped out my front door, I wasn’t expecting the ground to be covered in ice, and I slipped and fell right on my butt. It was awful,” said Fairmont senior Ben Matheson.

What the cancellations mean for Fairmont

At 4:30 a.m. Feb. 1, Kettering Superintendent James Schoenlein tested the roads and issued the message students were waiting for: Kettering City Schools CLOSED. Schoenlein said many factors go into making such a decision.

“We want to go to school, of course. Every day in the classroom is important,” said Schoenlein. “To be in school, the first thing is you need to have heat, lights and food. Then the next thing is that you need to clear the parking lot. We have our own equipment and our own people to do that.”

If the school has heat, light, food and safe parking lots, the district still must take into account the treacherous roads. “Overarching all of that is the safety of our kids,” said Schoenlein. “That is the No. 1 concern, and there is nothing else.”

Students got two days to relax, sled, drink hot chocolate or do homework by candlelight, but the closures also mean Fairmont students will file into the classroom for one extra day in the summer. This year, Ohio reduced the number of calamity days schools can take without making them up from five days to three. Kettering has now used four.  

The rollercoaster of the week is over, but forecasters predict more wintry weather this weekend. And since it’s only the first week of February, Kettering still faces many more weeks of winter and the potential for even more school closings.

For updates on school closings, click HERE