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Published: 9/23/2009

Snow, ice envelop Toledo region; subzero conditions on way

BY LAREN WEBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

When sleet and freezing rain began pelting her window Friday morning, Rachelle Roy knew her day as a mail carrier would be more challenging than usual.

But she threw on several layers, donned waterproof boots, topped the outfit off with a Santa hat to add a little holiday cheer, and headed out the door, trudging through inches of a slushy, snowy mess that covered roads and sidewalks.

"The hard cold is not as bad as having the snow and slush," she said Friday afternoon as she finished up her appointed rounds in central Toledo.

Snow showers are likely Saturday and Sunday, but with accumulations of less than an inch in Toledo Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.

The wintry mix of freezing rain and snow that swept across northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan Friday left thousands without power, closed schools and the Toledo Zoo, and disrupted road and air travel.

A U.S. Postal Service worker for eight years, Ms. Roy said she expects work Saturday to be much worse, because temperatures were expected to dip below 20 degrees overnight, turning the slush into ice.

"Today's walking is not going to be nearly as bad as tomorrow," she said Friday.

Ice accumulation from freezing rain brought down wires and short-circuited a transformer off Talmadge Road near Monroe Street about 7:20 a.m. Friday, causing a power outage in the area of Talmadge, Monroe, and Sylvania Avenue.

By late Friday morning, weather conditions got worse and more tree limbs snapped in Sylvania, where an estimated 5,000 customers lost power for several hours.

Icy conditions closed the Toledo Zoo, including cancellation of Friday night's Lights Before Christmas show, said Andi Norman, the zoo's director of marketing and public relations.

The View From 22 event at Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's office also was canceled Friday night. The mayor's wife, Amy, promises to bring back the holiday-tour event in 2009.

More than 20,000 American Electric Power Ohio customers throughout northwest Ohio lost power because of storm damage, and the utility said restoration in some areas would not occur until midnight Saturday. As of 9 p.m. Friday, about 8,300 AEP customers still were in the dark, including more than 3,300 in the Van Wert area, about 1,700 in Hancock County, and more than 1,800 in southern Paulding County.

About 800 Toledo Edison customers were without power Friday as of 8:30 p.m., including 300 in Defiance, 100 in Holland, and 100 in or near Lindsey, Ohio, said Gary Keys, the utility's area manager. Mr. Keys said falling ice-covered tree limbs had downed numerous poles in Defiance County.

Crews from Ohio Edison in Akron and employees who were on vacation were called in to help restore power to the affected customers. Mr. Keys expected power to be restored by Friday night.

In Findlay, the American Red Cross opened an emergency shelter for area residents who were without electricity.

Red Cross officials said that with reports that some electric service might not be restored until tomorrow, a shelter was opened at the Community Education and Wellness Center at Owens Community College's Findlay Campus.

The Ohio Department of Transportation closed the left lanes in both directions on

I-280 on the Veterans' Glass City Skyway about 11 a.m. Friday because of ice on the bridge's stay cables. The lanes remained closed last night.

"They will stay closed until the ice melts," said Theresa Pollick, a spokesman in Bowling Green. Ice falling from the stays last winter struck several vehicles, but no one was hurt.

Several flights were delayed or canceled at Toledo Express Airport, as were many at Detroit Metropolitan-Wayne County Airport, and some airlines suspended travel by unaccompanied minors.

The snowy mess also made it difficult on roads early yesterday, as drivers had to maneuver through slushy roads and freezing rain during the morning rush hour.

A tractor-trailer slammed into a wall and jackknifed about 7 a.m., blocking three lanes of traffic on southbound I-75 at Miami Street.

Road conditions were worse south of Toledo, especially in Findlay, where a flurry of fender benders was reported.

Icy weather conditions prompted Seneca County Common Pleas Judge Michael Kelbley to postpone the fifth day of the jury trial of William H. Perkins, Jr., who is charged with robbing a Tiffin pharmacy at gunpoint. His trial is to resume at 9 a.m. Monday.

ODOT had 98 plow trucks working Friday morning in Lucas, Fulton, Henry, Ottawa, Sandusky, Seneca, Williams, and Wood counties, Ms. Pollick said.

"The biggest challenge is the freezing rain and the below-freezing temperatures, which we have to watch as they are rising," she said. "We'll be out there at least until midnight."

The weather front expected to pass through the region tonight will bring with it significantly colder air. The National Weather Service predicted a high of just 19 for Toledo tomorrow and subzero wind chills. The low Monday morning was forecast for 9 degrees.

Staff writers Megan Gilbert, Mike Sigov, JC Reindl, Carl Ryan, and Jennifer Feehan contributed to this report.

Contact Laren Weber at:

lweber@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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