Walloped by winter

By BRIAN BOHNERT and MORGAN MANNS
STAFF WRITERS

Old Man Winter delivered another one-two punch on northwest Ohio this week, dropping up to eight inches of snow in some spots.
Totals ranging from 4-8 inches were reported throughout Seneca County Wednesday as northwest Ohio continued to get punished with blow after blow of nasty winter weather. The storm, which rolled into the area early Tuesday evening, continued well through the overnight hours and into Wednesday afternoon.
Wind gusts of approximately 25 mph complicated travel, causing blowing and drifting snow and reducing visibilities to a mile or less in some areas Wednesday morning as temperatures struggled to get above 25 degrees.
Lt. Matthew Meredith with the Fremont Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol said there were no reports of road closures throughout the area Wednesday, despite frequent calls of vehicles stuck in ditches and snow drifts.
The only crash he said deputies responded to Wednesday was a commercial rollover crash on U.S. 224 near Tiffin.
While road crews are keeping up with main routes, Meredith said he urges drivers traveling on snow-covered township and county roads to exercise caution as some are “almost impassable.”
“Slow down a little bit,” Meredith said. “Those drifts often come up when you’re not expecting them, so just leave a little extra time.”
Fostoria Police Capt. Patrick Brooks said the department has been “very fortunate” with this bout of snow, as no serious accidents were reported. However, several reports of cars stuck in the snow were made, according to the media report.
“People are driving sensibly when they are out,” he said. “But sometimes people forget that when they stop, they slide; especially people in 4-wheel drive, they slide just like any other vehicle on the road.”
Of the nine police vehicles the department has, three of them have 4-wheel drive. Brooks said when severe weather strikes, officers try to double up and have two units to a vehicle to better utilize the cruisers with 4-wheel drive, which also makes it easier for them to navigate through the city.
“The last real bad weather snap we had, one officer was responding to a 911 assault call and slid on some ice as he was trying to go and struck anther vehicle,” Brooks said, advising that no one was injured and minor damage was done to the vehicles. “There’s a delay in our response time when weather conditions are like this and it’s important that citizens know this and act accordingly when they see a cruiser enroute.”
Likewise, Fostoria Fire Chief Keith Loreno said this “adverse weather significantly reduces respond times.”
“(Responding to a call) is already a volatile situation,” he said. “It’s worse because you have ice on the roadway. Other drivers aren’t able to stop like normal. The biggest misconception is that our vehicles aren’t going to slide on the ice. But they slide just as easy as any other automobile.”
Snow drifts and slippery driving conditions forced sheriff’s offices across northwest Ohio to issue snow emergencies in an effort to keep residents safe and off the roads. Seneca County, as well as Hancock and Wood counties, were under a level two snow emergency as of 8 p.m. Wednesday.
Lucas County took a preemptive strike Tuesday night, issuing a Level 3 snow emergency at 11:30 p.m. Lucas County remained at a Level 3 throughout much of the day Wednesday, downgrading to a Level 2 at 3:30 p.m.
Other areas under a Level 3 included Defiance, Fulton, Ottawa and Putnam counties. Municipalities like Clyde, Bowling Green and Perrysburg issued snow emergencies of their own, prohibiting citizens from parking on designated snow streets so crews can plow safely and effectively.
Fostoria Street Department Supervisor Mike Kreais said city plows were out at 9 p.m. Tuesday plowing the streets.
“At one point it was coming down so hard we had to take a break,” he said, advising that it was hard to see. “We waited until it slowed down and we’ve been plowing basically non-stop every since.”
Kreais said he estimated crews would be out plowing until about 4 or 5 p.m. Wednesday, at which time they would begin salting the roadways.
Previously, Kreais had said plowing the whole city once takes roughly seven hours, while salting the entire city takes about four.
He said the city typically starts off with about 800 tons of salt at the beginning of the winter season, ordering a couple tons “here and there” as needed. As of Wednesday, Kreais said the city has ordered a total of 1,100 tons of salt this season, with 450 tons currently in the bins.
Fostoria Mayor Eric Keckler said the street department was using “every plow that was available” Tuesday night through Wednesday to keep the streets driver-friendly.
“They probably plowed through the entire town about four times,” he said. “It was coming down fast but they kept at it.”
Being a former street department employee, Keckler said he can verify that crews did a “nice job during their long hours.”
Both Loreno and Brooks said that in addition to icy roadways and drifting snow, sidewalks and driveways that have not been plowed cause a challenge for first-responders.
“People not being able to or haven’t cleaned their driveways or sidewalks causes a hindrance for us to get to them in a timely manner,” Loreno said. “If we need to assist you medically or in the event of a fire, we need to be able to get to you. It’s easier when snow is cleared and there’s a good 3-foot clearance around a hydrant. Sometimes people don’t recognize those elements.”
Another difficulty Brooks said the department faces during the winter seasons is iced-up windshields and snow-covered cruisers, stating that it’s a “pain in the butt.”
Similarly, Loreno said the division is extra cautious with their vehicles during the winter months.
“Fire trucks have water in them. It can freeze just like all water freezes,” he said. “It’s no different than the pipes freezing in your house. It could freeze the water tank, the pump, the piping in the pump — it could cause major damage.”
However, Loreno said the division has enough safety procedures in place that they have not had their truck water freeze. The division monitors the trucks’ time outside in the cold, keeps them all inside a heated garage area when not in use, and each vehicle has shielded heat plates underneath to keep the heat in.
The division’s newest ambulance, Medic 91, is installed with a block heater, which circulates the oil in the motor so it stays warm when the truck isn’t running. According to Loreno, this allows the truck to heat up instantaneously, both in the front and in the box.
The National Weather Service issued a Winter Storm Warning Tuesday night, effective until 5 p.m. Wednesday for just about all of northwest Ohio, including Seneca, Hancock and Wood counties.
The forecast for today calls for partly sunny skies with a high of 15 degrees and wind chill values as low as -4 degrees. Tonight’s low will fall to -8 degrees as the wind chill plummets to around -22 degrees.
Friday will be partly sunny with a high near 12 degrees and winds ranging from 8-13 mph.
According to the National Weather Service, Fostoria’s next chance for snowfall will be after 2 p.m. Saturday when temperatures are expected reach a high of 20 degrees. The chance of precipitation will increase from 40 percent to 60 percent into the evening Saturday and morning hours Sunday.

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