Lucas County remains at a Level 2 snow emergency, while Henry, Fulton, Defiance, Hancock, Ottawa, Sandusky and Seneca Counties will remain at Level 3 at least through the night.
Although Lucas County emergency authorities downgraded the Level 3 to a Level 2 earlier today, the roads are still very dangerous in spots and the Lucas County Sheriff's office is responding to several calls of cars sliding off the road and getting stuck in snow drifts.
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“If you don't have to go out, stay home, but if you do go out, use extreme caution to get to your destination safe and sound,” said Sgt. David Martin.
As of 8 p.m., the temperature at Toledo Express Airport had fallen to -15, breaking a record for the date set back in 1884 and 35 degrees colder than the day's high temperature of 20, reported at 12:18 a.m.
Matthew Heyrman, director of the Lucas County Emergency Management Agency, said the decision to relax the emergency level was made by Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp in consultation with the city of Toledo, the National Weather Service, and suburban jurisdictions today to keep traffic to a minimum but to allow businesses to operate.
Sgt. Martin said, however, the decision was based primarily on information supplied to the sheriff by local municipalities “that they were doing OK.”
The Lucas County Sheriff office dispatchers have also fielded about a dozen calls from angry citizens who were upset that Lucas County is the only jurisdiction in Northwest Ohio that made the decision to downgrade to Level 2 today, he said.
A Level 2 snow emergency means that roadways are hazardous with blowing and drifting snow and only those who believe it is necessary to drive should be on the roads. Level 3 forbids all non-essential travel and subjects violators to fines and vehicle impoundments.
As of noon, Robert Reinbolt, chief of staff to Mayor D. Michael Collins, said all main thoroughfares and bus routes in Toledo had been plowed and 60 percent of residential streets had received at least one pass.
In neighboring counties, several sheriff's departments reported receiving numerous calls of cars in ditches and stuck in snow drifts.
Fulton County Sheriff's office officials said it is too dangerous to be traveling and the department is issuing tickets to anyone who cannot provide a legitimate reason for being on the road. Those ticket amounts range from $250 to $1,000 depending on the circumstances.
In Sandusky County, officials in Washington and Scott townships called snow plows off the roads on the grounds that wind was blowing snow back onto the roads as soon as it was cleared.
The National Weather Service said temperatures in the Toledo area could reach the high-teens below zero by Tuesday morning, accompanied by "deadly wind chills" between 30 below and 45 below zero.
The cold temperatures and blowing snow prompted University of Toledo, Owens Community College, and Bowling Green State University to close campus operations Tuesday.
Toledo, Perrysburg and Sylvania Public schools, as well as St. Francis de Sales high school, will all remain closed Tuesday.
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Three warming shelters are open in Toledo, officials from the American Red Cross of Northwest Ohio announced, at United Auto Workers Local 12, 2300 Ashland Ave.; East Toledo Family Center, 1020 Varland Ave., and Margaret Hunt Senior Center, 2121 Garden Lake Pkwy.
Each of the locations will offer overnight shelter, but people should bring their own blankets, pillows, and toiletries if possible, officials said.
Another area warming shelter is the Perrysburg Heights Community Center, 12282 Jefferson St. in Perrysburg Township. It will be open with food and beds until Wednesday for anyone needing shelter, said Jason Craig, the Perrysburg Heights Community Association's treasurer.
Columbia Gas of Ohio expects to move the fifth-highest amount of gas in its history through its Ohio system today.
A normal day in early January will see a gas through-put of 1.3 billion cubic feet, but today the utility expected Ohio customers to consume 2.3 billion cubic feet. approaching the record 2.5 billion cubic feet of Jan. 18, 1994. Columbia expects to approach or break that 1994 record on Tuesday.
Theresa Pollick, an Ohio Department of Transportation spokesman in Bowling Green, said about 100 crews worked the state highways today in Lucas, Wood, Fulton, Henry, Ottawa, Sandusky, Seneca, and Williams counties, but blowing and drifting snow was "a huge problem" throughout the district.
"We are basically focusing on plowing the roads, because if we we spread salt and it melts the snow, it may refreeze and create icy conditions," Ms Pollick said.
The crews typically work in formations of two or three, so they can clean more effectively, keep traffic from passing them when possible, and make sure a crew has assistance if it gets stuck, she said.
In both Erie and Huron counties, ODOT has 11 such crews working the roads at any given time today, Christine Myers, spokesman for ODOT's District 3, said.
"We are basically covering all of our normal routes," Ms. Myers said. "There are no major issues. We are dealing with drifting snow but we are not experiencing any additional accumulation."
Travel in several northwest Ohio counties remains treacherous with some area residents reporting 15 inches of snow -- not drifted snow, but rather snowfall from the storm at their homes.
Staff writers Marlene Harris-Taylor, Taylor Dungjen, Janet Romaker, Mike Sigov, and Tom Troy contributed to this report.