Blizzard warning in effect for counties east of Toledo

Hancock, Seneca, and Sandusky counties issue Level 1 alert

Vickie Stinson shovels her driveway on Alice Street on Wednesday in Port Clinton.
Vickie Stinson shovels her driveway on Alice Street on Wednesday in Port Clinton.

Snow and slippery road conditions are causing headaches -- and accidents -- in and around Toledo where forecasters said the area still could get 4 to 6 inches of snow before the storm ends.

"We're still looking at a winter storm warning until 7 p.m.," said Kirk Lombardy, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Cleveland. "The main problem is blowing snow with the wind we're getting right now. There's still the potential for 4 to 6 inches of snow before it's all done."

Only six-tenths of an inch of snow had been recorded at Toledo Express Airport at 4 p.m. The worst of the winter weather was occurring east and south of Toledo.

“There’s going to be a corridor where the winds are going to be a little stronger up toward the lake and in a swath of northwest Ohio,” NWS meteorologist Tom King said this morning.

Mr. King said winds are expected to pick up to 25-35 mph later today, but that gusts of up to 50 mph are what will wreak havoc in northwest Ohio, particularly in Ottawa, Erie, Hancock, Seneca and other counties south and east of Lucas County.

“It’s not going to be a picnic in Toledo, either, but maybe not as windy up there,” Mr. King said. “There’s a fine line there, but as they say, you have to draw the line somewhere.”

The Ohio Department of Transportation in Bowling Green said about 100 snow plow operators from Fulton, Henry, Lucas, Ottawa, Sandusky, Seneca, Williams, and Wood counties are working 12 hour shifts until the snow and ice is clear from ODOT routes.

Northbound lanes on I-75 near Ottawa River were closed for nearly an hour during the afternoon after a semi-truck jackknifed, spilling diesel fuel on the roadway.

U.S. 20 in Fulton County near mile marker 18 is closed in both directions due to an accident.

No one was injured in the accident, said Sgt. Joe Heffernan, public information officer for the Toledo Police Department. At least one lane was re-opened at 1:30 p.m., he said.

According to initial reports, several people were injured in an accident in Fulton County on the Ohio Turnpike during the afternoon. The injured were transferred from the scene by ambulance. Officials said no fatalities were reported in that incident, but further details were not available.

Prior to the accident, a Fulton County Sheriff’s Deputy had reported that slippery road conditions had prompted “a long backup on the turnpike.”

“Lots of minor fender-benders” and vehicles sliding off roads were reported by police agencies throughout Lucas County and other surrounding areas. No serious injuries were reported.

“There are accidents everywhere, but nothing serious,” a Monroe County sheriff's deputy said.

Heavy snow started falling in Tiffin in Seneca County early today, and started falling in the Toledo, Port Clinton, Fremont and Findlay areas later in the morning.

Beginning at 11:30 a.m., the Ohio Turnpike Commission banned certain vehicles from traveling east and westbound on the toll road, including triple-trailer combination commercial vehicles; box-type, double trailer combination commercial vehicles that are more than 90 feet long; mobile home/office trailers, high-profile campers and enclosed trailers, and boat and horse trailers that are towed by passenger vehicles or pickup trucks.

Hancock County Sheriff Michael Heldman issued a Level 1 snow alert about 10:45 a.m. The county's government offices closed at noon today due to the increasingly severe weather. Commissioner Ed Ingold said the board also agreed to delay its last meeting of the year on Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. because of the snowstorm.

“We just want people to know the roads are snow-covered and slippery,” Sheriff Heldman said.

He estimated visibility at a quarter to a half-mile and said intersections in Findlay had quickly become slippery after the snow began falling about 8:30 a.m.

“The wind is the real problem,” he said. “We were just saying, it’s too bad it just can’t snow.”

Seneca County also declared a Level 1 shortly after 11 a.m., and Williams County followed suit about 2:30 p.m. Erie County and Wood County also issued Level 1 alerts. Sandusky County moved to a Level 2 alert just before 2:30 p.m., as well as Allen and Huron counties.

Bowling Green Safety Director John Fawcett declared a snow emergency for the City of Bowling Green effective at 12:30 p.m.

Cars must be moved off designated snow streets within two hours of the emergency declaration. Cars not removed are subject to citation and/or towing.

Across the state line in Michigan, a snow emergency will go into effect at midnight tonight and will end at 9 a.m. Thursday. Snow is expected to continue throughout the evening hours tonight with 3 to 6 inches expected when the storm finally moves out of the area, Dundee officials said.

All residents are asked to place their vehicles in their driveway. If this is not possible leaders ask residents to move their vehicle to a location that has already been cleared by a snow plow.

Ottawa County Sheriff Steve Levorchick joined other law enforcement and government officials for a Web conference with the National Weather Service at 10 a.m. today to get an update on the weather and to determine what needs to be done in the county the rest of the day.

“Supposedly it’s just around the corner,” he said today. “We are going to do what we do every time in this type of weather – we will keep the normal amount of manpower on the road … and if we need more deputies we will call them in.”

In Ottawa County, the sheriff can declare a Level 2 snow emergency – roads might be treacherous and drivers are warned to be careful – or a Level 3, in which roads are hazardous and some might be closed, and community members should call their employers to determine whether to report to work. However, a Level 3 does not mean roads close automatically – Sheriff Levorchick said he has to declare them closed after conferring with the county engineer’s office.

Hollywood Casino Toledo will not open two of its restaurants for dinner today because of the anticipated storm. Epic Buffet is open until 4 p.m. but will close for the dinner-time service. The steakhouse Final Cut, which usually opens at 5 p.m., will not open today. The lounge Scene will close early at 8 p.m., but Take 2 Grill will remain open for its round-the-clock operation, as will the casino floor.

Jason Birney, the casino’s vice president of marketing, said the casino decided to close some of its dining options because of the safety of its employees and also because it anticipates fewer customers to travel to the gambling attraction in this weather., a low-cost bus operator that drops off and picks up passengers at the site of the former Southwyck Shopping Center, canceled routes running in both directions from Chicago, Toledo, and Cleveland today.

Routes after 2 p.m. between Detroit, Ann Arbor, Toledo, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh also were canceled due to the weather. Passengers were notified by email or text messages, and advisories about route changes also are posted on the company’s Web site.

The Herzing University-Toledo campus closed at 1 p.m. today to students. Staff members also are being sent home because of the weather.