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Published: Monday, 12/17/2007

Snowstorm slows region: Season's biggest barrage causes cancellations, travel bans


With just nine days until Christmas, area malls should have been jam-packed with holiday shoppers yesterday.

Mother Nature, however, had other plans.

The biggest storm to hit Toledo so far this season dumped 6.3 inches of snow at Toledo Express Airport and, combined with high winds and a trace of freezing rain, prompted most people to stay home.

Many activities in the area were canceled, including church services, the University of Toledo fall commencement ceremony, the Toledo Zoo, the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, and at least eight flights at Toledo Express Airport.

Stores remained open, however, and those who braved the wintry conditions were rewarded with minimal checkout lines.

It s a good shopping day for the daredevils, said Alex Rockwell, 19, a clerk at the GameStop store at Westfield Franklin Park.

The storm started with a mix of light snow, sleet, and freezing rain late Saturday that turned into a heavy blast of wet snow yesterday morning that did not taper off until early in the afternoon.

This storm had a little bit of everything snow, ice, more snow, and wind, said Jim Kosarik, chief meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Cleveland.

He said most of northwest Ohio got 5 to 7 inches of snow, and winds gusting to 38 miles per hour caused a lot of blowing and drifting.

Just north of the state line, the storm s sweet spot dumped up to a foot of snow in the Ann Arbor area, Mr. Kosarik said.

Law-enforcement officers reported numerous incidents of vehicles sliding off the roads and collisions yesterday in Hancock and Wyandot counties.

Authorities in Hancock and Seneca counties banned all nonessential travel for most of the day, with Hancock reducing its Level 3 emergency to Level 2 at 6:30 p.m. and Seneca following suit half an hour later.

Riemon Covington, 16, of Toledo makes cold cash by shoveling a driveway at Plum Leaf Lane in Toledo. Reports put the snowfall at between 5 to 7  inches.
Riemon Covington, 16, of Toledo makes cold cash by shoveling a driveway at Plum Leaf Lane in Toledo. Reports put the snowfall at between 5 to 7 inches.

As of 9 p.m., Hardin, Lucas, Paulding, Putnam, Ottawa, Sandusky, and Wyandot counties also were at Level 2, while Allen, Defiance, Fulton, Henry, and Wood counties were at Level 1.

Ottawa County lifted its snow emergency on Monday morning. Putnam County reduced its snow emergency level from Level 2 to Level 1 on Monday morning.

Yesterday morning, what little traffic there was on the Ohio Turnpike was moving at 20 to 30 mph from the Indiana border through Williams, Fulton, Lucas, and Wood counties, Sgt. Stephen Babich of the Ohio Highway Patrol s Swanton post said.

Luckily it s a Sunday morning and people are heeding the weather, he said.

At the highway patrol s Van Wert post, Dispatcher Trena Bartz said yesterday morning that visibility was 200 yards and north-south roads were drifting over.

It is nasty, she said, adding that traffic on U.S. 224 was moving at 5 to 10 mph. They re crawling.

At least 5,800 people in the Oregon area lost power for about two hours yesterday morning because of an equipment malfunction in a substation, a Toledo Edison spokesman said.

Snow and ice on electrical lines caused other scattered power outages throughout northwest Ohio.

At Toledo Express Airport, at least eight of 18 scheduled flights were canceled and others were delayed, sometimes for hours.

American Eagle, which canceled some midday flights to and from Chicago, expected to be able to rebook travelers on later flights.

But a spokesman at Northwest Airlink, which canceled flights to and from Detroit, said many of its later flights were full. And both Continental Connection flights to Cleveland, similarly snowbound, were among the cancellations.

At Westfield Franklin Park, the wintry blast kept enough customers away for Ms. Rockwell and her GameStop co-workers to unpack new shipments and restock the video game store s shelves.

We ve [been] able to get a lot done today, she said.

Ishmael Shine, an 18-year-old salesman at the mall s T-Mobile kiosk, leaned on the counter and watched the few passers-by.

Although business was down, Mr. Shine was confident shoppers would be back in droves today.

Jordan Brenner powers through the snow to clear off a driveway on River Road in Maumee.
Jordan Brenner powers through the snow to clear off a driveway on River Road in Maumee.
THE BLADE/HERRAL LONG Enlarge | Buy This Photo

I don t think it s going to hurt business in the long term, but the weather is just too bad to come shopping. The roads are terrible, he said, adding that his usual 20-minute commute in a four-wheel-drive vehicle took an hour yesterday. People should stay off the road safety first.

Janine Lawson, 53, of Temperance was getting the bulk of her Christmas shopping done with her daughter, Erin Pfeifer, 27, of Lambertville.

We practically have the whole mall to ourselves, Mrs. Lawson said. It s great.

Ironically, she and her husband, Shawn, had the day free because the storm forced them to close their gift shop, Victorian Gardens in Blissfield, Mich. It was the first time in seven years of ownership that inclement weather forced them to close for an entire day.

At the Shops at Fallen Timbers, the outdoor mall in Maumee that opened in October, few shoppers could be seen along the festively decorated sidewalks or inside the stores.

Among the hardy customers were Dan Lucier, 20, and his mother, Laurie Lucier, 41, of Chatham, Ont.

This is nothing! Mr. Lucier said. We re used to this [weather]. You just have to drive slow.

The Luciers were visiting relatives in the Toledo area and said they were heading over to Westfield Franklin Park.

I love the malls in Toledo. We don t have any big malls in Chat ham, Mr. Lucier said.

It s great here today, Mrs. Lucier added. Nobody s bugging you.

Joel Haynes, manager of the Tractor Supply Co. in Bowling Green, loads bags of salt into a customer s truck during the snowstorm.
Joel Haynes, manager of the Tractor Supply Co. in Bowling Green, loads bags of salt into a customer s truck during the snowstorm.
THE BLADE/LORI KING Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Several pastors said they kept a close eye on the weather before finally making the call to cancel services around 7:30 a.m.

I got up about 4:30 and was looking and it wasn t that bad, but then it just kept getting progressively worse, said the Rev. Bill Herzog, pastor of Vineyard Church of Toledo. I think me and about 300 other pastors all called the TV stations at the same time to announce that we were canceling services.

Yesterday s storm followed two Sundays in a row in which ice storms cut attendance severely, if services weren t canceled altogether.

I m going to have a long talk with God about it, Mr. Herzog said. That s three Sundays in a row.

The Rev. Steve Davis of Dayspring Assembly of God in Bowling Green said the church leadership decided to hold services yesterday morning and to put on its annual Christmas musical, The Gospel According to Scrooge, in the evening.

We had 250 to 300 people at church this morning, which is half the crowd we normally would have, Mr. Davis said.

The Rev. Larry Whatley, pastor of Turning Point United Methodist Church in Bowling Green who also is a newsman for WTOL-TV (Channel 11), said it was a difficult decision, but he canceled the church service yesterday because of the Level 2 advisory in Lucas County and the Level 1 in Wood County.

We have some really faithful people who will come no matter what. It wasn t a good idea for people to be on the road yesterday, Mr. Whatley said.

At the University of Toledo, where the morning graduation ceremonies were canceled, leaders mulled whether to reschedule the fall commencement or simply invite graduates to the spring ceremony.

It was the first time for the university to cancel commencement in at least 24 years, spokesman Jon Strunk said.

The university had expected 7,000 to 8,000 people at the commencement where 2,033 graduates were to be recognized. Nationally known sports writer Christine Brennan, a Toledo native, was to speak.

Staff writers Jane Schmucker, David Patch, and Mike Sigov contributed to this report.

Contact David Yonke at: dyonke@theblade.com or 419-724-6154.

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