As about six inches of snow fell on the area, visibility approached whiteout conditions, triggering a fatal accident on I-75 in Perrysburg Township and a 16-car pileup on I-75 near the Ohio-Michigan state line.
Miles-long backups were common throughout the region.
“We've got cars off in the ditches and accidents all over the place,” said James Barlow, a dispatcher at the Ohio Highway Patrol post in Toledo. Dozens of sporting events, classes, and meetings were canceled.
Shortly after 12:30 p.m., the snow started falling, and shortly after that, cars started sliding. Accidents continued as between four and six inches of snow accumulated by early evening.
For commuters trying to get home, the storm tripled or quadrupled the travel time, demanding a measure of patience and caution.
“I just took it really slow,” said Kathy Smith, a Perrysburg resident who works in South Toledo. Her typically 15-minute drive stretched to 40 minutes. “It was bumper to bumper.”
The Lucas County Sheriff's Department declared a Level 2 snow emergency, warning motorists to drive only if necessary.
A towing crew removes a van, left, after an accident on I-75 in Perrysburg Township
Sheriff's departments in Wood, Sandusky, Seneca, Henry, Defiance, Hancock, Putnam, Paulding, and Hardin counties issued more mild Level 1 snow emergencies, warning motorists of icy and snowy conditions.
One accident left a Toledo man dead. James Stanley, 50, of 1936 Chase St., was driving a van when he collided with two tractor-trailer rigs and a car on southbound I-75, just south of the I-475 split in Perrysburg Township, the Ohio Highway Patrol said.
The drivers of the other vehicles were not hurt.
Troopers said Michael Croston, 36, of Coshocton, Ohio, was southbound about 1 p.m. when he lost control and his tractor-trailer jackknifed. Another semi struck Mr. Croston's semi before Mr. Stanley's van hit it as well; the car then struck the back of the van.
No citations were issued last night. The accident remains under investigation.
Officials closed I-75 southbound for about four hours as officials cleared the accident in Perrysburg Township. Later in the evening, northbound I-75 was backed up for miles south of Wales Road as crews worked to help motorists who had slid off the highway.
Near the state line on I-75 southbound, 16 vehicles were involved in seven accidents at 2 p.m. when a tractor-trailer jack-knifed and blocked the southbound lanes, Washington Township police Chief Chris Kaiser said.
“It was a chain reaction,” he said. “It's a mess.”
Four people were taken to the hospital with minor injuries, including a woman who had to be cut from her car after it smashed into the truck.
In Hardin County, about 60 miles south of Toledo, a Forest, Ohio, woman was hurt seriously yesterday when her car slid into the path of a freight train about 4:30 p.m.
Rebecca Parsell, 34, was driving south on County Road 215, just north of State Rt. 37, when she couldn't stop before crossing the path of an eastbound CSX train, which was pulling 42 cars. The intersection is regulated by warning lights.
The train struck the driver's side of the car, troopers at the patrol's Findlay post said. Ms. Parsell was taken to Hardin Memorial Hospital in Kenton before she was transported to St. Rita's Medical Center in Lima, where she was in critical condition last night.
In Toledo, police were so backlogged with car accidents by 4 p.m. that they announced officers would only report to injury accidents.
The city of Toledo and the Ohio Department of Transportation said they had plow/salt trucks out on the road before the storm arrived, but that the persistent heavy snow made it hard to keep up.
“When it's coming down an inch an hour or more, that's at the limit of keeping those roads clear,” ODOT spokesman Joe Rutherford said. “And when you have accidents, the plows can't get through, either.”
Hussein Abounaaj, the city commissioner of streets, bridges, and harbor, said trucks were salting Toledo streets by 9 a.m., three hours before the snow began falling. But Toledo's front-line snow-fighting force comprises just 33 street trucks and five bridge trucks, which Mr. Abounaaj conceded is small compared with other cities.
City officials added 31 snow plows from city sister divisions to the 38 snow plows clearing surface streets last night, with a goal of clearing the snow from major surface streets by morning, Mr. Abounaaj said.
Fifteen private contractors were summoned to begin work last night on the city's residential streets, he said. They were expected to remain on the job until the afternoon today, when city crews will take over clearing those streets, he said.
Robert Beaty, owner of Schaad's Service towing company in West Toledo, said he was getting more calls than he could handle.
Those who wanted to avoid getting behind the wheel also faced slow going. TARTA officials reported delays of 20 to 30 minutes for bus routes.
Most high school basketball games scheduled for last night were canceled.
The storm was caused by a large low-pressure system moving up from the Tennessee Valley into the Midwest, said Bill Randel, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Cleveland.
Forecasters expected light snow and freezing rain to fall throughout last night, Mr. Randel said.
There is a 50 percent chance of flurries today.
The storm is the latest weather system to blanket the Midwest and Northeast with heavier-than-usual snowfall and below-normal temperatures since the beginning of October, the weather service said.