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Published: Wednesday, 4/16/2014 - Updated: 3 months ago

Spring storm triggers multiple crashes, injuries, 1 death

BY DAVID PATCH AND MIKE SIGOV
BLADE STAFF WRITERS
Traffic is backed up on I-75 near Summit Street early Tuesday. Toledo police said five crashes occurred on southbound I-75 between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. Traffic is backed up on I-75 near Summit Street early Tuesday. Toledo police said five crashes occurred on southbound I-75 between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m.
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So you thought winter was ending last week when the grass turned green and the daffodils bloomed? Or during the weekend, when Toledo-area temperatures hit the mid-70s for the first time since early October and leaf buds sprouted on trees?

Not in this year of historic cold and record snowfall. Not at all.

The back side of a strong spring storm ushered in a fresh burst of accumulating snow in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan early Tuesday, while the accompanying mid-20s cold made bridges icy enough to trigger a flurry of traffic crashes including one near Toledo Express Airport that killed a Sylvania man.

Rex George, 65, was pronounced dead at the scene of the 7:20 a.m. crash on Airport Highway at the bridge over the Ohio Turnpike, according to the Ohio Highway Patrol’s Toledo post. Troopers said Mr. George’s car was struck head-on by a pickup truck whose driver lost control on the icy overpass.

PHOTO GALLERY: Click here for more frigid photos

While the National Weather Service reported just an inch of snow at the airport, Toledo’s official weather-reporting station, local meteorologist Jay Berschback said higher snowfalls fell elsewhere — particularly east and south of the city. Close to 4 inches fell in parts of Huron County, he said.

The airport’s inch brought Toledo’s official record-breaking season snowfall to 86.3 inches, more than 13 inches higher than the old mark of 73.1 inches from 1977-78. It was the first measurable snow on Tax Day in Toledo since 2007, when 0.8 inch fell at Toledo Express, according to the National Climatic Data Center.

Mr. Berschback, the chief meteorologist at WTVG-TV Channel 13, said the winter of 2013-14 has passed the point of frustration for many people, citing the example of a photograph a viewer sent in of his freshly mowed lawn — mowed to remove the snow.

“I think we’re all at the point where you can’t cry any more, so you start laughing,” the meteorologist said.

While Tuesday’s snow generally didn’t stick to paved surfaces, its moisture and that from earlier rain made overpasses icy thanks to early-morning temperatures in the mid-20s, including a 9 a.m. low of 26 degrees at Toledo Express.

“The ground keeps the pavement warm, but those bridges at night, over a matter of hours, can become the temperature of the air,” Mr. Berschback said.

According to the highway patrol, Curtis Davis, 47, was westbound on Airport when his pickup crossed the center line at the turnpike overpass and entered the path of Mr. George's eastbound car. The collision prompted troopers to close Airport’s eastbound lanes for about two hours.

Mr. George wore a seat belt, but it was unknown if Mr. Davis did, troopers said. The crash remained under investigation later Tuesday.

Toledo police said five crashes occurred on southbound I-75 between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m., restricting or stopping traffic. Two of them occurred at Phillips Avenue, with the others at Ottawa River Road, I-280, and Alexis Road. There were injuries at Ottawa River and Phillips, police said.

In Waterville, the State Rt. 64 bridge over the Maumee River was closed for several hours in both directions, ending around 10 a.m., because of a crash, Waterville police said.

Southbound U.S. 23 briefly closed between the Michigan state line and Central Avenue after accidents, according to the state patrol. The crashes were “all over that area” a dispatcher at the patrol said.

Several area school districts delayed classes for two hours Tuesday morning because of the weather, including Benton-Carroll-Salem, St. Boniface, Buckeye Central Local Schools, New Riegel, Seneca County Opportunity Center, and Seneca East.

Mostly cloudy skies and a biting wind helped keep the temperature from rising much above freezing Tuesday afternoon — it reached just 35 degrees at Toledo Express, 25 degrees below normal for the date. But what sunlight did get through was enough to melt a lot of the snow by sunset, Mr. Berschback noted.

Another mid-20s morning low was expected today, with partly cloudy skies and an afternoon high in the upper 40s, said Gary Garnet, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Cleveland. 

Contact Mike Sigov at: sigov@theblade.com, 419-724-6089, or on Twitter @mikesigovblade.

Contact David Patch at: dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.



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