January began with two major snowstorms followed by deep freezes with brisk winds that kept road crews busy and had salt supplies dwindling.
January ended in Toledo the way it began: with snow in the air.
It was just half an inch at Toledo Express Airport, but it brought the month’s record-shattering snowfall total to 40.2 inches and, with more on the way, put this winter on the brink of Toledo’s 10 snowiest ever.
Along with close to a half-inch of rain, the new month started with another 1.5 inches of snow at the airport by 5 p.m. Saturday, which put Toledo less than an inch shy of breaking into 10th place for season snowfall. Up to an additional inch was expected overnight after a cold front’s passage turned the rain back to snow.
Brighter skies were in forecasts for today and Monday, but more snow was in the midweek outlook, with a 50-percent chance Tuesday afternoon; a 90-percent chance overnight Tuesday, and an 80-percent chance Wednesday.
“A lot of our model data is indicating we could have a significant amount of snow on Wednesday,” said Martin Thompson, a hydrometeorologic technician at the National Weather Service office in Cleveland.
Lows later in the week will return to the single digits, with temperatures dipping to 2 degrees Thursday night, according to the weather service.
January started with one of two major snowstorms to hit the area, bringing 6.8 inches to the airport on New Year’s Day and 2.6 inches more the next morning. That was followed by a 13-inch storm on Jan. 5 and 6 that also ushered in the first of two deep freezes that, combined with brisk winds, virtually shut down northwest Ohio for two days and closed most schools for the entire week.
Besides its record snowfall, the month ended tied for the sixth-coldest January on record in Toledo, with an average daily mean temperature of 16.0 degrees. It was the ninth-coldest of any month in the metro area’s recorded history and the coldest since January, 1982’s 15.7 degrees; the coldest ever was January, 1977, at 9.6 degrees.
Temperatures fell as low as -15 on the night of Jan. 6 and -14 the next morning, both records for those dates and two of 11 days in January when the mercury fell below zero.
Two other record lows were tied: -12 on Jan. 3 and -10 on the 28th, the latter occurring during the month’s second deep freeze with wind chills dipping into the -30s and drifting snow posing a hazard on many rural roads.
Besides closing schools for so many days that many districts may have to extend their class schedules in June unless relieved by legislative action, the rough weather taxed Toledo-area homeless shelters’ resources and strained the budgets, manpower, and supplies of road-maintenance agencies throughout the region.
Officials at St. Paul’s Community Shelter kept their doors open around the clock during the deepest chills but warned it might force them to end their regular nighttime-only winter “crisis” shelter service earlier than normal this month.
David Welch, Toledo’s commissioner of streets, bridges, and harbor, said that because the city started this winter with a huge stockpile, his salt supply remains ample even though crews have spread more than twice the amount — between 30,000 and 35,000 tons — this season than during the past two winters combined.
“We’ll keep track of it. Obviously February and March are going to tell us a big story,” Mr. Welch said Friday.
But replenishing Toledo’s supply after this winter “will be a challenge for our next salt budget,” he said, because of competing demand for salt from so many other communities that will want to make big purchases.
Theresa Pollick, an Ohio Department of Transportation spokesman in Bowling Green, said fighting snow and ice in Ohio’s eight northwestern-most counties had consumed 57,000 tons of salt and 74,500 hours of labor through Friday, at a total cost of about $6.5 million. The season averages for the previous five winters, she said, were 41,000 tons of salt and $5.1 million in expenses.
Some suburban communities have already begun rationing road salt by spreading less and using the ice-fighting material only on major streets after their supplies ran low and replacement supplies proved hard to find.
In Monroe County, where rural roads became paralyzed early in the month by vehicles stranded in snowdrifts, salt supplies are nearly gone and the overtime budget for the entire year has been spent.
“We budget $200,000 for overtime every year. We went through that the first week of January,” said Randy Pierce, managing director of the Monroe County Road Commission. “That may be a little bit of an exaggeration, but our overtime budget this year is shot.”
The road commission has been mixing its dwindling salt supply — just 8,000 tons remained Friday from 250,000 the agency started the season with — into brine to stretch it, but even brine doesn’t work when temperatures are in the single digits or colder.
But how to make up this winter’s excessive costs remains to be figured out.
“That’s going to be a big question,” Mr. Pierce said, taking a long pause before continuing.
“We don’t want to lay anybody off, but there’s only so much money coming into the house. We’ll have to make some decisions.”
Blade staff writers Mark Zaborney and Federico Martinez contributed to this report.
Contact David Patch at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6094.