Recent winter storm could be among costliest in years

The costs from an early January winter weather mix of extreme cold and wind are among the worst since the remnants of Hurricane Ike hit Ohio in early 2008, insurance and repair industry officials said.

No estimate is available, but when it all is added up, the damage is expected to be among the worst of recent storms. The Ohio Insurance Institute surveyed its members for estimates, which it does only when it expects a particularly strong and widespread impact.

The most recent weather to reach a level of note came in February 2011, when a winter storm in parts of Ohio produced at least $70.3 million in damage, according to OII.

Local insurance and repair companies have seen a boost in calls and requests that they are still working to fill.

“We’re all hands on deck,” said Jay Moran, vice president of A-Abel Companies, which provides services for a variety of needs impacted by the storm, including plumbing, heating and electricity.

The consecutive low temperatures of -10 and -9 degrees on Jan. 6 and 7 comprised one of the coldest two-day stretches in the area in the past two decades, since an eight-day stretch in 1994 produced two daily low-temperature records, of minus-25 degrees each on Jan. 18-19, 1994.

Any days with temperatures below zero are relatively rare. In all, the area saw just 283 days with temperatures below zero since 1948, according to statistics from the National Climatic Data Center. Put another way, just 1.2 percent of the previous 24,101 days had seen temperatures below zero, like those experienced in early January.

The addition of wind gusts caused more problems, officials said. Earlier this week, for instance, A-Abel needed three types of crews on a job at a senior-care facility: plumbing, electricity and heating and air.

The cold-wind mix produces a domino effect.

“Several things can happen,” Moran said. “If a piece of siding blows off the house, a pipe is exposed, which kills the plumbing. It also impacts the heating and air system, which can stress the electricity.”

As recently as Wednesday, New Lebanon Schools dismissed students early because of two water main breaks, one of which was called weather related. That continued a string of problems in the past two weeks that led to closures or inconveniences at places like an apartment building at Wright State, multiple buildings at the University of Dayton, the Cheesecake Factory at The Greene and two schools in the Springboro district.

Many are still cleaning up or searching out service. Dehumidifiers continued running at the downtown Dayton YMCA on Thursday as the facility deals with the aftermath of a water pipe bursting on the evening of Jan. 7.

“There’s a peek hole in a door (to a racquetball court) that’s about five feet off the ground, and one of our members said he knew it was bad when water started coming out of that hole,” said Larry Dryden, executive director of the YMCA branch.

The racquetball courts will have to be replaced, but some other potentially severe problems were avoided because firefighters, members and staff quickly pushed out loads of water that were spilling throughout the facility.

“We were back open a few days later, and they were anxious to get back,” Dryden said.

Things are still not totally back to normal, like for many in the area. Repair services have been prioritizing jobs to deal with the number of requests. Someone without heat is at the top. Someone without water is there too. Someone needing an equipment check-up or other routine service might have to wait a few days longer than normal.

Issues can also arrive after a cold winter storm thaws, because ice that has formed from water leaking into walls or other parts of structure can melt and cause issues.

“Some of the claims are the same that would see from other events, like tree limbs coming down,” said Mitch Wilson, spokesman for the OII. “Other things are specific to the cold, and there can be a number of issues that come up.”