The Lucas County Sheriff's office has announced the county has been reduced from a Level 3 to a Level 2 snow emergency beginning at 11 p.m.
"The ice is going to be the factor," Sheriff John Tharp said before he and other officials discussed current conditions in the community from heavy snow over the weekend followed by sub-zero temperatures.
Also, the City of Toledo began towing vehicles from residential streets today but will not charge or fine those owners for the tows.
The vehicles need to be moved so the city can plow those streets.
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Toledo Public Schools, along with a host of other schools, already have announced that no class will be held on Wednesday.
So far, no major power outages have been reported from the storm or cold, but Toledo Edison spokesman Gary Keys said about 20 customers near the intersection of Anthony Wayne Trail and South Avenue had reported power outages early afternoon today. The utility has sent crews to investigate the cause and restore the power to all of the affected, he said.
The emergency situation from the winter storm in the county was returned to Level 3 at 3:50 a.m. today by Sheriff Tharp after he consulted with the Ohio Highway Patrol and other law enforcement.
The decision stemmed from reports he received from police about accidents in cities, villages, and counties as well an accident Sheriff Tharp witnessed on U.S. 23 in Springfield Township about 3 a.m. while he was checking conditions in the area.
"At this point we felt we had to go to a Level 3 or somebody is going to get killed," he said.
He said a United Parcel Service vehicle spun out on the snow and ice-covered roadway and slid into the ditch, in an area where two vehicles that had earlier gone off the highway and into the ditch.
"We are to the point now, where in my opinion as sheriff, because of all the calls we have received and what we have observed, it is not a snow emergency. It is an ice emergency," Sheriff Tharp said. "Most of the snow has been removed from the streets and the streets appear to be passable. But they are dangerous."
Sheriff Tharp said that because of the extreme cold temperatures coupled with the strong winds and icy road conditions, the Level 3 will remain in effect. He said he is especially concerned about conditions on the expressways and interstates because motorists may be driving too fast.
He said that the conditions will be monitored through the day and evening and a decision to remain at Level 3 or down grade the snow emergency will be made before midnight.
Henry County will downgrade to a Level 2 snow emergency at 2 p.m. Sheriff’s officials are asking people to avoid back roads where blowing snow is a problem and work continues to clear roads. State routes do not have the same drifting problem but are still icy, and extreme caution is urged.
Fulton County is at a Level 2.
Dispatchers from Defiance and Ottawa counties indicated the Level 3 in their locations likely will continue today. Defiance could remain a Level 3 until Wednesday morning, while Ottawa indicated it will be at a Level 3 through the evening.
Wood and Sandusky counties remain at a Level 3, but Wood County will downgrade to a Level 2 at midnight. Allen, Erie, Seneca, and Wyandot counties are at a Level 2 today.
In Lucas County, the Level 3 snow emergency that was called in the middle of the night caused confusion for some today, but proved helpful for snowplow operators and emergency personnel patrolling the streets.
Executive Diner at 2516 W Sylvania Ave. in West Toledo opened at 8 a.m. today but business has been slow.
Owner Hassan Hassan said his brother came in and opened up the eatery before they knew Lucas County had imposed another Level 3 emergency at about 4 a.m.
By 10:30 a.m., the restaurant had served some of its regulars and snowplow drivers, but the pace was slow. Mr. Hassan was debating on whether he should lock the doors before the usual 2 p.m. closing time.
The diner was closed Monday.
“It’s sad that businesses are taking a hit right now,” he said.
He’s hopeful once the weather improves everyone with “cabin fever” will decide to go out.
“We are ready to cook it up,” he said.
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Dispatchers reported no major incidents during the morning hours, but said cars that were venturing out were getting stuck in drifts and ditches.
Southbound I-75 was closed to traffic early today at the Alexis Road exit because of icy road conditions, according to Toledo police.
"We have not seen road conditions improve since Sunday," Theresa Pollick, a spokesman at ODOT’s district office in Bowling Green, said. "With the Arctic blast, the snow pack will stay on the roads until we can treat it once the temperatures warm up. We have significant drifting snow in the rural areas and we continue to plow."
Oregon Administrator Michael Beazley said the city has a skeleton staff today because of the Level 3. He said road crews have plowed roads, repeatedly in some cases, but must re-plow because of the high winds blowing across open fields.
“We’ve got great equipment but we’ve got tough wind. You can’t get down to bare pavement because the chemicals don’t work,” Mr. Beazley said.
“People are just staying home,” Mr. Beazley said.
Lisa Ward, spokesman for Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins, said city employees know that a Level 3 declaration means that only essential employees must report. That includes police, fire, and workers who repair water main breaks, among others. Because the payroll is due, a number of city payroll employees have reported.
Ohio Department of Transportation District 1, which includes Allen, Defiance, Hancock, Hardin, Paulding, Putnam, Van Wert and Wyandot counties, has 86 crews on the highway in those counties.
They are putting salt and calcium chloride on the roads to take advantage of the sun. Crews are working to remove ice from highways, but roads will by icy through tomorrow, according to ODOT.
Under a Level 3 snow emergency, only authorized personnel are allowed on the roads. For those authorized to drive in a snow emergency, ODOT offers tips such as making sure drivers clear windows and all lights; they drive slowly, and don't crowd snowplows.
All schools in the area were closed for a second day, as are places as diverse as the Toledo Zoo, the Toledo art museum, and places such as medical clinics and cancer centers. The Hollywood Casino Toledo will be open tomorrow at 8 a.m.
Staff Writers Vanessa McCray, Ignazio Messina, and Mike Sigov contributed to this report.