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Published: Wednesday, 2/2/2011

Lucas County downgrades to Level 2 as area starts to dig out from storm

Shortly before 1 p.m., the county Emergency Management Agency dropped the Level 3 snow emergency, under which all but emergency and “essential” traffic was forbidden. Seneca, and Sandusky counties had similarly reduced their alert levels during the previous hour. Ottawa County cancelled its Level 2 snow emergency at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

But the Level 2 advisory still in effect through most of the region, except for Wood County, contains a warning that unnecessary travel should be avoided because of hazardous driving conditions.

The storm that swept through northwest Ohio overnight and early Wednesday morning ended up delivering far less snow than expected.

On top of 1.7 inches of snow that fell at Toledo Express Airport overnight Monday, the National Weather Service reported another 3.7 inches as of 7 a.m. Wednesday, for a storm total of 5.4 inches. Higher amounts were reported to Toledo's north and west, while to the south and east the snow totals were further reduced by sleet and freezing rain that mixed in during the storm.

Additional snow showers passed through the area Wednesday morning, but by 1 p.m., light snow was reported only at Lima and Findlay among northwest Ohio weather stations, along with Ann Arbor and Adrian in Michigan.

Leslie Wilkes, manager at the Tim Horton's shop at Secor and Sterns roads in Lambertville, said most motorists clearly had heeded advice to stay off the roads, because drive-up business there was minimal. The intersection, one of Monroe County's busiest, went unplowed until about 10 a.m.

The shop usually gets several hundred cars during the morning rush, Ms. Wilkes said, “and I don't think we got a twentieth of that today.” She had driven into work from Monroe, carefully following the tire tracks from previous traffic, but told four of her staff to stay home.

Those who did venture out found many roads snow-covered, and even in central Toledo, turning at intersections was especially tricky.

A city plow clears snow Wednesday on North Summit Street in Point Place. A city plow clears snow Wednesday on North Summit Street in Point Place.

The Level 3 emergency earlier in the day meant that all courts in Lucas County, including municipal courts, are closed Wednesday. Also closed are Toledo-Lucas County Public Library branches, Westfield Franklin Park mall, Metroparks of the Toledo Area, the Toledo Zoo, Imagination Station, and most other public attractions, along with many businesses. The Town Center at Levis Commons in Perrysburg opened two hours late, at noon.

County offices under the control of the Lucas County commissioners are closed, including Lucas County Jobs and Family Services and The Source of Northwest Ohio on Monroe Street in downtown Toledo, and the Lucas County Dog Warden's office. Other county offices will be open or closed at the discretion of the elected officials in charge of them, county Administrator Peter Ujvagi said.

All city of Toledo offices were officially open, however.

The University of Toledo cancelled classes for Wednesday and both Owens Community College campuses were closed, as were all local school districts. The university medical center and other local hospitals were open and requested volunteer assistance from owners of four-wheel drive vehicles to get employees to their jobs.

Chrysler canceled the first shift at its Toledo-area plants, including the Global Engine Manufacturing Alliance facility in Dundee, Mich. Second shifts are to report to work, the automaker announced.

The city of Toledo banned on-street parking on all streets used by Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority buses until 7 p.m. Parking is restricted to the even side of all other city streets until then to give snow plows room to get through. Garbage and recycling was to be collected as scheduled.

In Beaverdam, Ohio, north of Lima, southbound I-75 was closed for about seven hours after a 12:45 a.m. collision involving multiple tractor-trailers.

The chain-reaction crash near State Rt. 696 caused no injuries, but clearing damaged trucks from the icy road was cumbersome, troopers from the Ohio Highway Patrol's Lima post said.

The highway patrol and Michigan State Police reported numerous slide-off accidents on roads throughout the region. Many secondary and rural roads in both Ohio and Michigan were simply impassible early Wednesday.

Many commercial flights at Toledo Express and Detroit Metro airports were canceled Wednesday. Amtrak maintained operations through Toledo but some trains were behind schedule.

Many domestic flights were canceled because of airport closings elsewhere, but “everything that is running, is running very smoothly,” said Scott Wintner, a spokesman at Detroit Metropolitan-Wayne County Airport.

Delton Opfer, center, and his grandson John Skouroukos VI, 15, back left, and granddaughter Vanessa Skouroukos, 13, right, clear the snow from their sidewalk and car Wednesday in front of their home in the 800 block of Nevada Street in East Toledo. Delton Opfer, center, and his grandson John Skouroukos VI, 15, back left, and granddaughter Vanessa Skouroukos, 13, right, clear the snow from their sidewalk and car Wednesday in front of their home in the 800 block of Nevada Street in East Toledo.

National Weather Service spotters in southeast Michigan reported overnight snow totals ranging between 5 inches in Dundee and 5.8 inches in Morenci to 8 inches near Adrian and 7.5 inches in Hillsdale.

Scott Lederman said he needed 90 minutes to shovel and snow-blow his driveway in Temperance because of snow drifts.

“There were a couple of three-foot snowdrifts, and in other places, there was nothing,” he said.

The Bedford Township Fire Department responded to a car fire blamed on a motorist repeatedly gunning his engine in a failed attempt to get unstuck from snow, but otherwise had much less work than fire chief John Bofia expected.

“We made provisions for an influx of calls, but that never materialized,” the chief said.

“If you spin the wheels fast enough, and it gets hot, it'll catch fire,” tow-truck driver Mike Faunce said after depositing the burned car's wreckage at LaRocca's Towing in Temperance.

While it was relatively mild in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan, the storm lived up to its billing in other parts of the Midwest and Great Plains, one of the worst in decades.

Related Story: Businesses, schools, airports shuttered as massive storm roars through heartland, heads east

Chicago, where schools are closed for the first time in 12 years, received up to 17 inches of snow with more still possible, Missouri got as much as 1 1/2 feet, more than a foot was dropped on northern Indiana, and Oklahoma has as much as a foot.

In central Ohio, several hundred thousand utility customers started Wednesday in the dark after a combination of ice and wind felled trees and power lines.

The northeast was next in line for its wintry bounty. Some parts of northern New York already had a foot of snow Wednesday morning. New York City was expected to get up to three-quarters of an inch of ice by midday before the mix of sleet and freezing rain warms up to rain.

But despite the storm in western Pennsylvania — or perhaps because of it — groundhog Punxsutawney Phil was declared to have not seen his shadow, nor did Buckeye Chuck in Marion, Ohio. According to legend, that portends to an early arrival for spring this year.

It won't start Wednesday in Toledo. By day's end, forecasters expected 1 to 3 inches of new snow on top of what had fallen by sunrise, along with brisk northerly winds between 24 and 29 mph that were likely to keep blowing all of that snow around.

Temperatures were forecast to fall throughout the day, starting in the mid-20s and dropping to the single digits by early Thursday and sub-zero wind chills. Sunny skies are expected Thursday and Friday, but it will be bitterly cold, with highs in the teens expected each day and another near-zero low on Friday morning.


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