CELINA – A massive winter storm that dumped nearly a foot of snow on Northwest and West Central Ohio on Monday evening and into the early hours of Tuesday left road crews scrambling and motorists in a holding pattern.
Meteorologist Mike Lewis of the National Weather Service office in Syracuse, Indiana, said the agency received reports of 11.5 inches of snow that had fallen in Delphos to 8.5 inches a few miles northeast of Lima.
Another weather system is on its way to the region Wednesday night and into Thursday morning, but Lewis said that system is expected to deposit “only an inch of snow, maybe two,” on its way through.
“There is also a little light at the end of the tunnel this weekend, as temperatures are expected to climb into the 30s,” Lewis said.
Rough night for plow drivers
High winds and reduced visibility that accompanied Monday night’s snowfall made the chore of cleaning roadways a difficult one during the zenith of the storm. A photo making the rounds on social media showed a Mercer County snowplow on its side in a ditch late Monday.
Mercer County Engineer James Wiechart said that photo did not tell the whole story.
“First of all, the driver of that vehicle was not injured. And honestly, we had more than one truck that dropped into a side ditch and got hung up. There were several,” Wiechart said. “Fortunately no one was hurt, and all the trucks are still operational.”
The engineer said Monday evening was “by far the worst” time for snowplow operators, as winds reduced drivers’ visibility. That, coupled with narrow country roads with little or no shoulders along the pavement, were principally responsible for the slide-offs, he said.
“We don’t have enough manpower to keep trucks on the road 24/7, so we ran 13 main routes Monday night and pulled them off the road around midnight, leaving three trucks on duty for emergency purposes,” Wiechart said. “At 6 a.m. Tuesday, our drivers were back on the road, and by 10 a.m. all the roads were open and passable. The winds had died, and that had been our biggest challenge.”
COVID immunizations affected
The inclement weather forced Allen County Public Health and other distribution sites to postpone vaccination clinics that were scheduled for Tuesday morning.
It even delayed some vaccine shipments from Pfizer and Moderna, Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday, potentially forcing other COVID-19 immunization clinics for seniors and K-12 employees to be postponed by hours or even days. DeWine advised that anyone with an appointment this week check with their provider ahead of time to ensure times have not changed.
Feeding the first responders
The Car-E-It Party Shop in Ottawa handed out between 40 and 45 free meals to snowplow drivers, first responders, police and fire personnel and village workers on Tuesday in appreciation of their public service.
Meals included meatloaf and mashed potatoes, gravy steak sandwiches, spaghetti with meatballs, taco salad, hamburger mac-and-cheese and other house specialties.
A spokesman at the carryout said he and another employee posted notices on the company’s Facebook page as well as their own personal social media pages to spread the word. The gesture was met with favorable responses on the Car-E-It Facebook page.
Travel was restricted
Sheriffs Mercer and Putnam counties issued Level 3 Snow Emergency advisories — the most restrictive for motorists — late Monday in anticipation of what forecasters predicted would be a heavy snowfall event.
By Tuesday morning, all of those advisories had been downgraded except for Putnam County. Sheriff Brian Siefker kept the Level 3 emergency in effect slightly longer, downgrading to a Level 2 snow emergency around 1:30 p.m.
“The reason is that we still had cars stuck in the middle of some roads in the county,” Siefker said. “People get stuck, and they walk away to get help, and the cars are left behind. We needed people to get those cars moved, but the county garage is telling me that’s been pretty well cleaned up now,” Siefker said in issuing the Level 2 advisory. “The guys at ODOT say they’re making good headway, too.”
The sheriff said several of his deputies and at least one tow truck got stuck in the snow Tuesday evening while lending a hand to motorists, prompting Siefker to issue the Level 3 restrictions.
“No one should be out during these conditions unless it is absolutely necessary to travel,” according to a press release issued by Siefker shortly after midnight Tuesday. “All employees should contact their employer to see if they should report to work. Those traveling on the roadways may subject themselves to arrest.”
By late morning on Tuesday, Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey downgraded that county’s roadway advisory to Level 1, meaning county and municipal roadways are snow and/or ice-covered with possible blowing and drifting snow. Driving conditions are hazardous in many areas and caution is advised. Grey had issued a Level 3 advisory at 10 p.m. Monday.
Sheriff Matt Treglia downgraded Allen County to a Level 1 roadway warning at 12:45 p.m. Tuesday, replacing the Level 2 advisory issued at 6 p.m. Monday.
Auglaize County Sheriff Mike Vorhees downgraded that county to a Level 1 emergency level in the early hours of Tuesday.