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Published: Thursday, 12/23/2004

Winter wallop brings snow emergencies

As of mid-morning today, at least 25 Ohio counties were under Level 3 snow emergencies meaning the general public should not be traveling on the roads. Those counties included Crawford, Hancock, Ottawa, Sandusky, Seneca, Wood, and Wyandot counties in northwest Ohio.

Counties under a Level 2 emergency, which urges citizens to avoid travel if at all possible, included Allen and Putnam in the region. But by noon Lucas County had reduced its status to Level 1, which is merely an advisory of hazardous driving conditions.

Snowfall ended in the Toledo area by noon, with bright sunshine breaking out across the region from west to east as the storm cleared. Forecasters expected wind and increasingly bitter cold to become the primary weather problems for the next few days, including temperatures well below zero on Christmas morning.

The storm that started Wednesday dumped up to two feet of snow in suburban Dayton in southwest Ohio, and Dayton s 16 inches of accumulation broke the city s single snowstorm record of about 13 inches in a January 1978 blizzard.

Northwest Ohio communities received between 6 to 18 inches.

By MARK ZABORNEY

BLADE STAFF WRITER

The same storm that was clobbering a wide swath of the country began hitting the Toledo area in full force last night, driven by northerly winds that were expected to drop nearly a foot of snow in some parts of northwest Ohio.

The heaviest snowfall should end by 9 this morning, forecasters said, leaving 6 to 10 inches on the ground in the Toledo area. Parts of the region south and east of Toledo could have several inches more.

"I wouldn't be surprised if some areas didn't receive a foot," said John Feerick, a meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc., a private forecasting service in State College, Pa.

Southeast Michigan could get 4 to 8 inches of snow.

The snowstorm was blamed for six deaths, three in Ohio.

Glenn Perkins plows the lot in his auto repair shop on Washington Street in Tiffin. Glenn Perkins plows the lot in his auto repair shop on Washington Street in Tiffin.
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Anticipating the storm, Owens Community College closed its Perrysburg Township and Findlay campuses at 4:30 p.m. yesterday. The campuses will remain closed today. University of Toledo, Bowling Green State University, and Lourdes College are on a scheduled break.

For much of yesterday, snow piled up in Cincinnati and Dayton, Tiffin and Bucyrus before making its way fully into northwest Ohio.

Toledo waited until 8 p.m. before snow started falling.

"Every hour it doesn't snow, it's good for us in the mall business," said Todd Hiepler, general manager of Westfield Shoppingtown Franklin Park.

Brian Schwartz, spokesman for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, was driving to Marietta, Ohio, yesterday to pick up family Christmas gifts. Driving was snow-free down I-75. Then he exited onto U.S. 23 in Hancock County at 2:30 p.m.

"It was almost a difference of night and day," said Mr. Schwartz, who plans to return home today. "As soon as I got to 23, the snow started sticking."

Dry air that developed behind a cold front kept the moisture from the Toledo area for much of the day, Mr. Feerick of AccuWeather said.

Then the warmer air of a storm system from the southwest met cold air from the north and brought snow, he said.

The cold air will remain. Today will be windy, with temperatures in the 20s falling into the teens. No snow is expected tomorrow, but temperatures overnight will dip below zero, he predicted. The high Christmas Day will only reach 5.

Holiday shoppers tried to beat the weather.

"We know it's extremely busy," said John Hoover, general merchandising and marketing director of The Andersons. "It's a combination of the last-minute holiday buying frenzy, in addition to weather-related items."

Snow shovels were a hot item at The Andersons in the Woodville Mall yesterday morning but lost their appeal as the day remained dry. John Kowalski, an assistant manager of the store, expects a busy day today - one day before Christmas Eve - whatever the weather.

"I think people are intending to come out no matter what," he said.

Some holiday travelers started out earlier than planned.

"My brother always told me that I would grow up someday to regret wanting a white Christmas, and this year he may be right. Especially if I have to spend it here and can't get home to be with my parents," said Susie Brown of Cincinnati, as she waited for a bus at the Greyhound Lines station there.

The weather caused flight delays of more than four hours at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport and of more than an hour at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

"Dayton may break its record, which is 12 inches for 24-hour snowfall," said Mike Ryan of the National Weather Service.

The storm battered states from the Plains through the Midwest.

A guaranteed white Christmas for some was a pre-Christmas nightmare for others.

"There's snow on the highway and people are sliding off the highways, rolling over, and 18-wheelers are jackknifing," said a Texas Department of Public Safety operator in Abilene, who counted 17 accidents by 8 a.m. in an eight-county area in West Texas. "People don't know to stay home."

Snow - or an icy mix of snow and sleet - fell from New Mexico, where some schools were closed, to the lower Great Lakes.

At the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, several flights were canceled and others were delayed as workers deiced 200 planes an hour, airport spokesman Ken Capps said.

There were at least six weather-related traffic deaths: in New Mexico, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and three in Ohio.

In Ohio Janet Akers, 51, of Stoutsville, was killed when her vehicle slid on ice, rolled over and hit a utility post, authorities said. A man identified by the Cuyahoga County coroner's office as Edward Whelan, 35, of North Olmstead, was killed in a two-car crash in Auburn Township. And James Close, 17, of North Lawrence, was killed when he lost control of his vehicle on a snow-covered road and collided with another vehicle in northeast Ohio.

The Blade wire services contributed to this report.

Contact Mark Zaborney at

mzaborney@theblade.com or

419-724-6182.



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