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Kids take part in Noon Year's Day

It pays to be tall.

Or at least it helped during the Noon Year’s Eve Party on Saturday at Keene Memorial Library in Fremont.

About 40 people — children and adults — gathered in the library auditorium to usher in the new year with a special daytime event.

“It gives the kids the opportunity to celebrate a holiday that they don’t normally get to, because they either can’t stay up or their parents won’t let them stay up (until midnight),” said Tina Walker, executive director. “The craft they make during the craft time is something for midnight for an actual New Year’s Eve celebration.”

Children decorated colorful masks like someone might wear to a New Year’s Eve party. They made pictures with construction paper snowmen and snowflake stickers.

The children also had an opportunity to have their photos taken in front of multicolored streamers. Children could wear masks they’d made or hold other props for photos taken by parents, grandparents and friends.

Guests — both tall and small — could indulge in some treats, like chocolate cupcakes, oranges or cookies that filled a table near one wall.

Everyone waited for the countdown to the balloon drop at noon.

The children engaged in some enthusiastic counting, before a string was pulled that would release gold, black and white balloons from plastic taped to the ceiling.

But something went amiss.

The string broke.

“You need a tall person,” said grandparent Jym Kruse, who at 6 feet, 7 inches reached up to grab a ribbon attached to the plastic.

Kruse had to tug the ribbon a bit since the plastic was well fastened to the ceiling, but freed the balloons which cascaded down into the children’s waiting arms.

Walker brought out even more balloons for the children.

And despite the brief snafu, children and adults seemed to enjoy the event.

“They really do a great job here,” said Becky Turner as she watched the children. “It’s very family oriented. That’s what I love.”

This was the first time Makayla Silva had ever attended the party.

She and her mom, Maria, were invited by friend Julie Anderson and children, Meadow and Ruger Anderson.

“It’s awesome. I love it,” Maria Silva said. “It’s social and my daughter can have fun.”

Grandparents had a chance for fun, too.

“We brought the grandchildren today to enjoy the festivities,” said Jan Kruse. “We’ve done it in the past and they wanted to come back.”

August and Juliana Kruse decorated masks and ate snacks amid other lively children at the event.

“I think it (the event) went really well until the balloon string broke, but we made the best of it,” said Laura England Biggs, children’s librarian.

Typically, the library offers this activity the day before New Year’s, Walker said.

“But this year, it (New Year’s Eve) happens to fall on a Sunday and we’re not open at noon on Sunday so we weren’t going to have it and then we got a lot of community feedback requesting Noon Year’s Eve on Saturday,” Walker said. “I’m glad I got the feedback from people. I had no idea how much this meant to people.”

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Firefighters battling blazes and bitter cold

Bitterly cold weather is causing concern for area firefighters.

The frigid weather has been creating hazards for firefighters trying to stay safe and keep equipment working in icy conditions.

Fremont Rural has fought five structure fires in three days — from Dec. 28-30. That doesn’t include the fire at the old Uncle Larry’s southeast of Fremont which occurred on Dec. 26.

And with temperatures in single digits or below zero, firefighters have been battling fire and extreme cold.

“I’ve done this for 24 years and I don’t know if I can remember temperatures this cold,” said Fremont Rural Assistant Fire Chief Carl Nielsen.

Nickerson Fire Chief Dusty Menking attested to Nielsen’s bone-chilling observation.

“It’s pretty brutal,” Menking said, adding, “It’s one of the biggest things we have for concerns is the safety of the firefighters.”

Menking pointed out some of the dangers.

“When you fight fires, you get wet — and when you get wet you get even colder,” Menking said.

Nielsen cited a specific instance.

“Our guys on Thursday morning (Dec. 28) were getting into trucks after a while,” Nielsen said. “They had to get in there to thaw out, because as they were spraying water they were getting wet.”

Then their bunker gear would freeze so they could hardly move.

“The gear gets so stiff once it gets wet when the temperatures get like this,” Nielsen said.

Working in such frigid situations can lead to frostbite, when extreme cold freezes the skin, and hypothermia, which according to the Mayo Clinic can cause dangerously low body temperatures and lead to death.

Exerting themselves in the cold weather is dangerous, too, as firefighters must perform very strenuous tasks such as pulling heavy water hoses.

“The leading cause for the firefighters’ death is heart attack and it’s usually in response to these types of situations,” Menking said.

Nielsen pointed out other hazards, such as possible slips and falls.

“When you’re spraying water — when the temperatures are like this — as soon as that water hits anything it immediately turns to ice. So you’ve got slip hazards,” Nielsen said.

Menking pointed out the potential hazards for motorists.

“You have all this apparatus on the road that’s in your way now and you’re not expecting it that early in the morning. It can be kind of treacherous,” Menking said.

The icy cold weather isn’t easy on equipment either and there are other challenges.

For one thing, water must be shuttled to these rural locations because there aren’t hydrants in the district, Menking said. That means water must come from a tank.

“Keeping things flowing so it doesn’t freeze up is challenging itself,” he said.

All this doesn’t include the cleanup afterward.

“The number of man hours that go into a call as far as a structure fire or any fire call like this where you have multiple departments is compounded when it comes down to cold weather,” Menking said.

Firefighters are looking ahead.

“The thing we’re going to have to start worrying about now if we get any more is taking care of the guys because of the cold and taking care of our apparatus (technical equipment), because our apparatus doesn’t like the cold either,” Nielsen said.

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2018 starts with record cold in parts of the Midwest

Bone-chilling cold gripped much of the central U.S. as 2018 began Monday, breaking records, and icing over some New Year’s celebrations.

The National Weather Service issued wind chill advisories covering a vast area from South Texas to Canada and from Montana and Wyoming through New England. Dangerously low temperatures enveloped much of the Midwest.

A new record low of 19 below zero was first recorded at Fremont Airport at 2 a.m. Monday. The temperature dipped to minus 19 on several occasions throughout the morning and held at the new record temp from 7-8 a.m. before warming to zero at 3:30 p.m.

The previous record low was minus 15 and was set in 1974.

The lowest wind chill in Fremont of minus 38 was recorded at 3 Monday morning.

On Sunday, a low of minus 16 was recorded in Fremont shortly before midnight tying a 49-year-old record.

Temperatures hit 15 below zero before midnight Sunday in Omaha, breaking a record low dating to 1884. Omaha officials cited the forecast in postponing the 18th annual New Year’s Eve Fireworks Spectacular that draws around 30,000 people.

The cold didn’t deter hundreds of people in the upper Midwest from ringing in the new year by jumping into Lake Michigan. Despite sub-freezing temperatures and a warning of potential hypothermia from the local fire chief, throngs of people took part in the annual tradition in Milwaukee, warming up later with chili or heat from a beach fire pit.

A similar event was canceled from the Chicago lakefront, however, where the temperature dipped below zero as thick white steam rose from the lake Monday morning. Organizers said the arctic blast made jumping into the lake too dangerous.

“I’m not happy about it. But I was down by the lake and, gosh, if you were dropped in there, it’d take you 10 minutes to get out,” Jeff Coggins, who helped organize the thwarted Chicago event, told WBBM-TV.

Instead, would-be Chicago plungers had their pictures taken while jumping on the frozen beach — in their swimsuits.

Temperatures plunged below zero elsewhere in the Midwest, including in Aberdeen, South Dakota, where the mercury dropped to a record-breaking minus 32 (-36 Celsius). The previous New Year’s Day record had stood for 99 years.

It was colder in Des Moines, where city officials closed a downtown outdoor ice skating plaza and said it wouldn’t reopen until the city emerged from sub-zero temperatures. The temperature hit 20 below zero (-29 Celsius) early Monday, with the wind chill dipping to negative 31 degrees (-35 Celsius).

In northeastern Montana, the wind chill readings dipped as low as minus 58 (-50 Celsius). And in Duluth, Minnesota, a city known for its bitter cold winters, the wind chill dipped to 36 below zero (-38 Celsius).

Plunging overnight temperatures in Texas brought rare snow flurries as far south as Austin, and accidents racked up on icy roads across the state. In the central Texas city of Abilene, the local police chief said more than three dozen vehicle crashes were reported in 24 hours.

It’s even cold in the Deep South, a region more accustomed to brief bursts of arctic air than night after night below zero. Frozen pipes and dead car batteries were concerns from Louisiana to Georgia as overnight temperatures in the teens were predicted across the region by Monday night.

The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s office said two bodies found Sunday showed signs of hypothermia. They included a man in his 50s found on the ground in an alley and a 34-year-old man. Police believe the cold weather also may have been a factor in the death of a man in Bismarck, North Dakota, whose body was found near a river.