The upgrading of Wednesday’s local snow emergency from Level 2 to the more-severe Level 3 may have been an inconvenience for some area motorists. But it was a smart and necessary call by Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp.
Sheriff Tharp, after consulting Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins and Carol Contrada, president of the county board of commissioners, first declared a Level 3 alert effective at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, several hours after snow began falling. He downgraded the alert to Level 2 effective at 5:30 a.m. Wednesday, but reinstated the Level 3 alert — including a travel ban — at 9 a.m., after more than three hours of heavy snow that made many roads nearly impassable.
A Level 3 declaration aims to keep all nonessential traffic off Lucas County’s roads, to reduce the risk of accidents, and to allow snow plows to clear streets and highways unhindered. The Level 2 alert resumed at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.
The upgrade occurred after many motorists had driven to work or school in the nasty rush hour. Some complained about the hassle of white-knuckling it to their destinations, only to be told they shouldn’t have been on the road. Yet the night before, social media were ablaze with assertions that a Level 3 declaration was unnecessary because of light or no snow in some areas.
It is Sheriff Tharp’s job to keep people safe. He cannot control the weather. By upgrading the snow emergency, he properly erred on the side of caution. Had there been an ugly pileup or fatality on an area road or highway, he surely would have been held accountable for any perceived inaction.
“I feel horrible that people then had to go turn their lives around,” Sheriff Tharp told The Blade. “But I just didn’t expect to be dumped on during the day ... It changed on us. The weather changed.”
Mr. Tharp has no reason to apologize, nor should he be criticized for his decision. When weather conditions are as bad as they have been this winter, authorities must make tough calls to determine the safest path. Too many drivers think they are invincible with a four-wheel-drive vehicle or a sturdy pickup, and foolishly travel at unsafe speeds through dangerous snow and ice.
By the evening rush hour, road conditions had greatly improved. The Level 3 declaration did what it was supposed to do: protect citizens and allow workers to clear local roads effectively.