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Published: 11/23/2002

Surprise snow closes schools, tangles traffic

Donald Christon, 12, left, and Derrick Green have trouble pushing a snow ball they spent an hour creating at their Arlington Avenue homes on a welcome day off from school. Donald Christon, 12, left, and Derrick Green have trouble pushing a snow ball they spent an hour creating at their Arlington Avenue homes on a welcome day off from school.
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The first significant snowfall of the winter season dumped up to a half-foot in some parts of the area, forcing the closing of schools and possibly resulting in the death of a 3-year-old child in a traffic accident.

As late as midday Thursday, the storm was forecast to bring only a dusting as it moved out of northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan overnight. Instead, a blanket of heavy, wet snow covered the area, with cities south of Toledo hit particularly hard.

“The roads aren't clearing the way we had hoped,” Mark Hummer, chief deputy for the Wood County Sheriff's Office, said yesterday afternoon. “They're iced and, in some areas, we have some blowing and drifting. It's just packed down so tight that the salt isn't getting to it and the sun hasn't really come out.”

While most of the traffic accidents reported in the region were vehicles in ditches or fender-benders, one about five miles north of the city of Van Wert, Ohio, took the life of a little girl in a collision that authorities said might have been caused by slick roads.

Her mother and two sisters suffered serious injuries.

Margery Glass was pronounced dead in Van Wert County Hospital after the 10:30 a.m. collision at Elm Sugar Road and U.S. 127. A car driven by her mother, Nicole Glass, 23, was struck on the passenger side by a tractor-trailer that was northbound on U.S. 127.

Ohio Highway Patrol troopers said they did not know if Ms. Glass failed to observe a stop sign on Elm Sugar or if ice caused her eastbound car to slide into the truck's path.

Ms. Glass and daughter Macey Glass, 1, were both listed in serious condition yesterday in Parkview Memorial Hospital, Fort Wayne, Ind., while son Matthew Glass, 5, was in critical condition there.

In tornado-stricken Van Wert County itself, Rick McCoy, director of the emergency management agency, called off tornado cleanup for the day, saying the work would resume on Monday. Fostoria scrambled as well to re-equip trucks for snow plowing after having taken plows off for cleanup of its Nov. 10 tornado damage.

In Lima, Ohio, numerous city streets were impassable yesterday morning due to downed trees and power lines.

In many communities where schools were closed, students traded textbooks for sleds and other winter equipment and put hillsides to good use - an unusual sight in November.

The school closings, in turn, forced postponement of several high school football playoff games.

The National Weather Service reported a three-inch snowfall at Toledo Express Airport and 51/2 inches in Lima. Authorities elsewhere reported varying amounts, from nary a flake in Port Clinton and thin coatings in Michigan's Lenawee and Hillsdale counties to one inch in Bryan, four inches in Monroe, and seven inches in Clyde, Ohio.

Michael Sager, a meteorologist with AccuWeather, Inc., a private forecasting firm based in State College, Pa., said the snow fell on the back side of an upper-atmosphere storm that “was a little stronger than we expected.”

Thunderclaps observed in central Toledo were indicative of the system's instability and helped explain the snowfall variations from place to place, just as a summer thunderstorm can drop half an inch of rain in one place but miss the next county entirely.

Lake Erie's warm water contributed too, Mr. Sager said. Port Clinton is so close to the lake that the precipitation changed over from rain later than in most other places, while Clyde, being farther inland but downwind from the lake, got additional snow.

Joe Rutherford, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Transportation's district office in Bowling Green, said that despite the snow's late forecast, the department got all of its northwest Ohio crews on the road by 5 a.m. yesterday, and earlier in western counties. By then, however, packed and drifting snow made roads difficult to keep clear, especially in Wood County.

The result was a virtual parking lot on I-75, where the usual 25-minute trip between Toledo and Bowling Green instead took more than an hour. Several vehicles slid into ditches, and restaurants and service stations at interchanges swelled with truckers and travelers waiting for road conditions to improve.

Ted Haddad and his family planned to attend a funeral in Dayton yesterday, but sluggish traffic on I-75 forced them to give up only 30 miles into the trip.

“We would have never made the funeral on time,” Mr. Haddad said while he and his family ate breakfast at a Bob Evans restaurant in Bowling Green before heading back home to Toledo on State Rt. 25.

Bowling Green city crews found themselves out at 4 a.m. putting snow blades on the trucks that had been used for leaf pickup all week.

“We weren't prepared for the amount of snow, but I think we were able to shift gears, move ourselves off the leaf removal plan, and execute the necessary snow removal,” said city Administrator John Fawcett. “The notion is once we get the streets into proper shape we'll go back to the leaves.”

Maumee Municipal Court canceled its sessions yesterday because of a storm-related power failure, and 1,200 Consumers Energy customers in Adrian were blacked out for about 90 minutes when a tree tangled power lines.

Scattered outages also were reported throughout the Hancock-Wood Electric Cooperative's service territory. The largest of those affected 1,000 customers east of Findlay, whose lights were out for four hours yesterday morning in an outage believed to have been caused by wet snow accumulating on substation switches.

This report was written by Blade staff writer David Patch, with contributions from staff writers George Tanber, Jennifer Feehan, Steve Murphy, Janet Romaker, Christina Hall, and Mark Zaborney.



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