Snow had not yet begun to fall on Tuesday when local leaders met to announce that, for at least many hours overnight, nonessential travel would be forbidden on streets and highways in Lucas County.
Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins, Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp, and Carol Contrada, president of the board of county commissioners, were confident enough in the accuracy of forecasts for 6 to 8 inches of snow to declare a Level 3 storm emergency that was to take effect at 11:30 p.m.
Lucas County downgraded its snow emergency to a Level 2 about 5:30 a.m.
Overnight work on city streets went "snowingly well," the mayor said early morning. He predicted that the county would not return to a Level 3 today.
A number of crashes were reported, but none were thought to have led to serious injuries.
Two snowmobile riders in the area of Cullen Park on Summit Street, who were assisted by the Coast Guard and other first-responders overnight, were not thought to be injured, according to dispatchers. The pair reportedly became lost on the ice shortly after 2 a.m. when the snowmobile fell through the ice and into the water as they headed toward Lost Peninsula. The male and female riders were able to escape the water but the Coast Guard had a helicopter, raft, and personnel on foot searching for the pair as they walked, in an attempt to guide them to safety.
A similar advance Level 3 declaration for a storm Jan. 5 and 6 that dumped 13 inches of snow at Toledo Express Airport succeeded in taking the “human element of panic” out of storm preparation, Mayor Collins said.
For that storm, officials announced in the early afternoon of Jan. 5 that nonessential travel would be forbidden as of 5:30 p.m., giving people time to stock up on supplies before hunkering down in their homes.
“We encourage all the citizens to help us out” by honoring the travel ban as they did a month ago, Sheriff Tharp said, and in particular by avoiding freeways because of slippery ramps and the risk of collisions with tractor-trailers.
“Tractor-trailers jackknifing can cause horrible, horrible accidents,” he said. “Take the other roads, keep your speed down to 25, 30 miles per hour, and relax.”
An inch or two was already on the ground early Tuesday evening in Findlay, which was in a geographic band across northern Ohio just south of Toledo where forecasters expected snowfall to be heaviest overnight and today, with 8 to 10 inches of snow. Lesser accumulations between 3 and 6 inches were expected in southeast Michigan.
In Columbus and Dayton, this storm’s snow was forecast to mix with sleet and freezing rain during the night, while ice-storm warnings were posted from the Cincinnati metro area east toward Portsmouth and Chillicothe, Ohio.
The heaviest snow tends to be a band just north and west of a storm center’s path, because that’s where the richest mix of colder air and plentiful moisture can be found, explained Brian Mitchell, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Cleveland.
Winds in the Toledo area were expected to rise to 20 to 25 mph by morning, which in combination with the fresh snow was expected to cause significant blowing and drifting. Sheriff Tharp said the forecast combination of snowfall and wind was the basis for declaring the snow emergency in advance.
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Keeping most traffic off the roads during what is expected to be the height of the storm in the Toledo area, between midnight and 5 a.m., “is meant to get those roadways passable,” Mayor Collins said.
As of early today several northwest Ohio counties had moved to Level 2 snow emergencies, including Lucas, Defiance, Erie, Fulton, Henry, Huron, Ottawa, Paulding, Sandusky, Seneca, Wood, Williams, and Wyandot counties. Overnight, Hancock County increased to a Level 3. Some cities, including Bowling Green, Tiffin, and Perrysburg, had declared snow emergencies that forbade parking along major streets. Most local schools had also closed by late Tuesday.
The storm appeared all but certain to be Toledo’s fourth major snowfall of the winter, with 9-inch snows in mid-December and on New Year’s Day before the biggest one Jan. 5 and 6. Last month’s 40.2-inch total snowfall at Toledo Express shattered the 30.8-inch January record from 1978 and vaulted Toledo into the Top 10 snowiest winters on record.
The all-time record, according to the weather service, is 73.1 inches, also set in 1977-78. Before the new storm’s arrival, Toledo’s snowfall was 54.4 inches.
Toledo streets crews, who worked alternating 12-hour shifts through most of January and into this week, remained on that schedule Tuesday in preparation for this storm, said David Welch, commissioner of streets, bridges, and harbor.
Many were assigned Tuesday to tackling the city's bumper pothole crop during daytime hours, although some repaired trucks or moved salt and other ice-fighting materials to stockpiles across Toledo, Mr. Welch said.
Mr. Welch and Mayor Collins said the pothole battle would resume as soon as possible after the snowstorm. The city and the Ohio Department of Transportation, Mr. Welch noted, are asking local asphalt suppliers about opening up a hot-mix asphalt plant “for a while” so more durable repairs can be made to the worst conditions on Toledo-area streets and highways.
“The potholes will have to be addressed as we go along,” Mayor Collins said. “I believe we have the resolve in this community to get through it.”
Contact David Patch at: email@example.com or 419-724-6094.