After a weeklong stretch of bright sunshine and temperatures that peaked in the 60s, Mother Nature yesterday turned gray, ugly, and treacherous, thrashing the Toledo area with winds that gusted up to 49 mph.
The winter storm created hazardous road conditions in Wood County's Troy Township where a 19-year-old Genoa, Ohio, man was killed when the sport utility he was driving hydroplaned out of control and crashed.
Mathew D. Harr was driving the 2003 Ford Escape east on State Rt. 163 east of Luckey Road about 12:05 p.m. when it hydroplaned through standing water, went off the south side of the road, rolled onto its side, and hit a tree, troopers at the Ohio Highway Patrol's Walbridge post said.
He was pronounced dead at the scene, troopers said.
Elsewhere, winds dropped trees and utility lines, while rain waters choked traffic and puddled in fields and basements.
Underscoring the change, the cold front that spat out rain and sleet at times also drove the mercury down 24 degrees in 24 hours - from 63 degrees at 9 a.m. Thursday to 39 degrees at the same time yesterday, said Jon Pacheco, with AccuWeather Inc., a private forecasting firm in State College, Pa.
The National Weather Service issued high wind advisories throughout the day, and the wind chill made it feel more like it was in the teens, he said.
During that same 24-hour period, nearly two inches of precipitation fell, Mr. Pacheco said.
But for those merely annoyed by the change, be warned: You've just been spoiled, he and others said.
"We've had such an abnormally mild last couple of weeks, so we get down to this level, it seems like such a crushing change," said Dennis Dixon, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in White Lake, Mich.
Though today might be a bit calmer, temperatures most likely will climb no higher than the high 30s.
Yesterday, it was the whipping wind that kept emergency crews and road crews scrambling to keep up.
"We're pretty busy out here," said Toledo police Sgt. Richard Murphy, who was stuck on the Anthony Wayne Bridge, where a safety light on one of the span's towers had plummeted to the roadway. There were no injuries.
"We're getting to everything as fast as we can," the sergeant said.
Along Ohio Street in Toledo, Chuck Miles fought the bitter winds to place a tarp over his roof, which had been damaged when wind felled a large nearby tree. Mr. Miles, a truck driver, said he had been in Hillsdale County, Michigan, hauling construction equipment earlier in the day.
"It was icy and windy there, and then my neighbors called me to tell me about the tree," he said.
In Rossford, strong winds blew a section of a greenhouse at the Meijer store onto the building's roof, where it struck and ruptured a gas line. Store officials notified the Rossford Fire Department, and made a decision to evacuate the store at about
12:30 p.m. as a precautionary measure, said Assistant Fire Chief Josh Drouard.
Shoppers were allowed back inside after about five minutes, once a store maintenance worker managed to shut the line off, he said.
In response to downed limbs, the city of Bowling Green announced it will offer curbside collection of branches and limbs starting Monday.
Meanwhile, rain saturated several low-lying areas in Toledo, in Seneca, Huron, and Sandusky counties in Ohio, and Lenawee County in Michigan, closing roadways and forcing motorists to abandon cars caught in the high waters.
In West Toledo, the city pumped water out of the sanitary sewers on Crawford Avenue, the scene of extensive flooding last summer.
Robert Williams, the director of the city's Department of Public Utilities, said two homes in the neighborhood, at Burnham and Poinsetta avenues, had water in the basement. Another 18 homeowners scattered around the city called in with water in the basement, he said.
In North Toledo, a pickup truck was discovered late Thursday night in Shantee Creek. The unoccupied truck, whose owner remained unidentified, was near Telegraph and Laskey roads behind a bowling alley. Mr. Williams said it appeared the owner may have backed in, not realizing how close he or she was to the creek.
Mr. Williams was not sure whether flooding would be avoided if the city gets more rain.
"We got about 2 inches of rain over a 24-26 hour period and that pretty much saturates the soil," he said.
In Fostoria, classes were cancelled yesterday at St. Wendelin Catholic High School and Junior High School after water overflowed a sewer drain and spilled into the building's basement and kitchen area.
The school plans to reopen by Monday.
At its peak yesterday, about 11,000 Toledo Edison customers were without power due to power lines knocked down by wind or felled trees and limbs, and a few broken poles also were reported, according to utility spokesman Gary Keys.
By 9:15 p.m. about 350 customers remained in the dark. Many of them were in the Holland-Sylvania area, Mr. Keys said.
Among the scattered roadway closures throughout the area was the heavily-traveled section of eastbound U.S. 224 southeast of Tiffin.
Blade Staff Writers Jennifer Feehan, Meghan Gilbert, David Patch, JC Reindl, and Tom Troy contributed to this report.
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