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Published: Saturday, 1/24/2004

Storm makes driving perilous

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Eileen Hoye battles the wind and blowing snow as she heads back to work after lunch in downtown Toledo. Eileen Hoye battles the wind and blowing snow as she heads back to work after lunch in downtown Toledo.
ZAPOTOSKY Enlarge

Two Temperance teenagers were killed in a head-on collision yesterday afternoon during the height of a snowfall that left several inches of the white powder on northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan.

Driver Vanessa Rae Pirrone, 17, and passenger Ryan Michael Wolniewicz, 16, died at Toledo Hospital of injuries they suffered in the 5:20 p.m. crash about a half-mile west of Whiteford Road, Monroe County sheriff s deputies said.

Miss Pirrone was attempting to pass another vehicle when she lost control of her 1990 Oldsmobile, crossed the center line, and collided with an oncoming 1997 Dodge pickup truck driven by Mark Lee Batson, 20, of LaSalle, Mich. Mr. Batson was not hurt, deputies said.

The crash occurred after snow had fallen in the area for several hours.

Numerous collisions, spin-outs, and slide-offs, most of them minor, snarled traffic throughout the region. Interstates 75 and 475 and U.S. 23 all were closed at various times, with traffic backing up for miles.

“I-75 is like a parking lot. There s just people off the road everywhere,” an Ohio Highway Patrol dispatcher at the Walbridge post said during the evening rush hour.

A women cleans snow from her car in a downtown Toledo parking lot before venturing out on slippery roads. A women cleans snow from her car in a downtown Toledo parking lot before venturing out on slippery roads.
LONG / BLADE Enlarge

And while U.S. 23 had reopened by 5 p.m., following an earlier closing north of Dundee, troopers at the Michigan State Police post in Monroe said traffic was moving so slowly it might as well still be closed.

At 11 p.m., the National Weather Service reported that 2.8 inches had fallen at Toledo Express Airport. The heaviest snows were reported in southern Michigan, with 4.1 inches in Monroe, 3.7 in Adrian, 3.3 in Tecumseh, 3.2 in Dundee and Temperance, 2.8 in Lambertville, and 2.2 in Litchfield.

In northwest Ohio, 2 inches were reported in Columbus Grove, 1.9 in Deshler, and 1 in Van Wert and Ottawa.

The weather service had no other reports.

I-75 between Perrysburg and Bowling Green was closed several times because of accidents. Among the more serious was a multivehicle crash involving at least one truck about 7:25 p.m. on the northbound lanes north of State Rt. 582, which troopers said sent one unidentified motorist to a Toledo-area hospital.

Bill Heinemann of Woodville waits for his pickup to be towed out of a ditch on I-75 northbound near Sterns Road in Erie Township, Michigan. Bill Heinemann of Woodville waits for his pickup to be towed out of a ditch on I-75 northbound near Sterns Road in Erie Township, Michigan.
MORRISON / BLADE PHOTO Enlarge

Five minutes later in Toledo, a collision at Arletta Street and Tremainsville Road injured two occupants of one of the cars. Both people were taken to hospitals, one after a 30-minute extrication effort. Toledo police provided no details about their identities or conditions.

Toledo Express Airport remained open during the storm, although some flights were delayed and weather conditions at other airports, particularly Detroit Metropolitan-Wayne County and Chicago s O Hare International, also caused disruption. One American Eagle roundtrip between Toledo and O Hare was cancelled.

Forecasters expected today to be mostly cloudy and cold in Toledo, with a high in the upper teens.

Wintry precipitation, meanwhile, is expected to return to the region tomorrow, with the possibility of snow changing to sleet or freezing rain tomorrow night and early Monday.

“It is too early to tell the exact path the storm will take and therefore [too early to predict] the impact [the new] storm will have on the area, but there is a potential for heavy snow or significant ice accumulation,” the weather service said in an advisory issued yesterday afternoon.

Blade staff writer Mike Sigov contributed to this report.



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