The National Weather Service is warning Ohio State faculty and students: do not be outside for long on Wednesday.
John Franks, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Wilmington, Ohio, said with wind chills reaching a high of 19 degrees below zero and low of minus 24, it could take only 15 to 20 minutes for frostbite to occur.
“Basically you just want to have any exposed skin covered so that doesn’t happen,” Franks said. “Don’t be the person wearing shorts and sandals.”
When the middle of the week hits, Columbus will experience what the National Weather Service is forecasting as the coldest weather of the season.
Franks said the high on Wednesday will be 1 degree. However, when factoring in wind chill, Ohio State students can expect the real feel to be minus 19 at its warmest Wednesday morning and afternoon. It will reach as cold as minus 24 late Wednesday and early Thursday.
Franks said gusts of wind will reach 30 to 35 mph early in the day and will calm to between 20 and 25 mph in the afternoon. He noted a prevailing wind of 15 mph will be constant throughout the day.
Despite the forecast predicting extreme cold, Ohio State has not made decisions regarding the cancellation of classes. A press release Monday said there is no temperature, snowfall or hazard that will trigger a closure.
The release said university leaders discuss the weather conditions and the necessity of a closure with medical experts, student health services, the Department of Public Safety, other university groups and National Weather Service forecasts to determine if a cancellation is necessary.
“The safety of students, faculty and staff is the university’s top priority,” the release said. “The obligation to provide the full measure of instruction to tuition-paying students is also a critical factor.”
The release noted that the Columbus campus has closed or canceled classes for just 13 days since 1978. The last time Ohio State closed its campus was Jan. 6 and 7 in 2014, when temperatures dipped to minus 7, with windchill bringing the real feel down to minus 35.
One student at Ohio State started a petition Monday afternoon to cancel classes Wednesday. By the time of publication, the petition had more than 13,000 signatures.
Other schools in Columbus have not made a decision on classes. Franklin University, Columbus State Community College and Columbus College of Art and Design spokespersons said decisions have yet to be made at their respective schools.
David Wayne, communications coordinator at Columbus State Community College, noted administrators were discussing whether to cancel classes, but they want to be extra cautious to avoid making a decision too early.
“You look back to Saturday when they were expecting all this snow and we got rain, they just want to be extra cautious,” Wayne said.
Universities across the city will refrain from making a decision on classes until Tuesday, if not early Wednesday, when forecasts will be more accurate.
Ohio State spokesman Dan Hedman said if an announcement on classes is going to be made, it will be sent out to students before 5 a.m. the day of the scheduled classes, if not earlier. Students and faculty are also encouraged to check emergency.osu.edu or on Twitter at @OSU_EMFP.