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Lucas County, southeast Michigan under winter storm warnings

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    Tom Schanke of the Downtown Toledo Improvement District walks along Madison Avenue as he clears snow from the street corners Wednesday, February 7, in downtown Toledo.

    The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
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    Lonnie Witcher salts the sidewalk on North Huron Street near Madison, Monday, January 29, 2018.

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The National Weather Service has issued winter-storm warnings for Lucas County and areas to its west and north because of forecast heavy snow Friday.

The warning for Lucas County, issued at 2:39 p.m. Thursday by the weather service’s Cleveland office, is effective from midnight Thursday until midnight Friday and predicts 5 to 9 inches of snow in Lucas County during that period. The heaviest snow is expected to fall between 5 a.m. and 7 p.m.

“This is Toledo, Ohio, and this is winter,” Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz said at a news conference Thursday. “Every once in a while, Mother Nature kind of punches us across the jaw. We’re going to be ready for it.”

RELATED CONTENT: Schools closing in anticipation of storm

Among the earliest agencies to announce cancellations were the Toledo, Oregon, and Sylvania schools, which said no classes would be held Friday; the Toledo Zoo, which said it would be closed; and Sunshine Communities of Maumee, which provides transportation and vocational programs for people with disabilities.

“We’ve been watching the weather reports all day. The decision is easy: We’re simply not going to take unnecessary risks,” said Patrick Feehan, Sunshine’s director of transportation.

The Perrsyburg and Swanton schools announced a two-hour delay.

The mayor and Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp called the news conference ahead of the storm to discuss their strategies for snow removal, emergency responses, and how they decide to declare snow emergencies.

Lucas County operates on three levels of snow emergencies. A Level 1 emergency means roads are hazardous with blowing and drifting snow. A Level 2 means only people with an important need to be out on the streets should be out. A Level 3 means that no one, save for emergency responders, news media, and other “essential employees” should be on the roads.

Sheriff Tharp said his crews will monitor the snow fall on Friday and determine when to declare the snow emergencies, but as of Thursday afternoon he could not say for sure when those advisories could be issued.

“There’s a great chance that we will never be at a Level 3 tomorrow, but that could change. The weather changes,” Sheriff Tharp said.

Jeremy Mikolajczyk, the city’s commissioner of the streets, bridges, and harbor division, said his crews will work 12-hour shifts during the storm. He said plow drivers will focus on clearing the city’s main streets as the snow falls.

Once the main streets are clear, then the crews will move on to less busy streets, he said. Depending on the intensity of the storm, Mr. Mikolajczyk said plow crews likely won’t reach residential streets until Sunday or later. If need be, he’ll call in private contractors to help plow those roadways.

“It’s going to be a long, drawn-out storm,” he said.

He asked that anyone on the streets use caution and not pass the plow trucks, which will be working from the center part of the lane to push the snow out to the curb.

“We’re going to stay on shift until we get through this,” Mr. Mikolajczyk said. “It will probably take us a good portion into the beginning of the week to get it all cleaned up and get everybody moving again.”

Toledo’s highest accumulations are expected to be near the Michigan border. The weather service office in White Lake, Mich., issued its own warning effective 3 a.m. Friday that predicted 6 to 9 inches in Lenawee and Monroe counties, while the North Webster, Ind., office issued a warning for Fulton and Williams counties, plus neighboring parts of Michigan and Indiana predicted 7 to 11 inches in that zone starting at 9 p.m. Thursday.

“Plan on difficult travel conditions, including during the morning commute on Friday,” the warnings read in part. “Be prepared for significant reductions in visibility at times.”

Overall, the forecasters said, travel will be “very hazardous if not impossible” during the storm.

As of Thursday afternoon, the forecast snowfall dropped off precipitously south of Toledo. The National Weather Service in Cleveland predicted 2 to 5 inches in Wood, Ottawa, Sandusky, and Erie counties, with the high end of that range expected in the northern part of that zone.

The North Webster office predicted 1 to 3 inches overnight and another 1 to 3 inches during the day Friday in Defiance, and only slightly higher amounts in Napoleon. Even less was forecast for Findlay.

City officials asked residents to place their trash containers at the edge of their driveways or on the curb so that they do not block snow plows. Trash will be collected unless the county declares a Level 3 snow emergency.

They also issued a reminder that property owners are responsible for clearing sidewalks in front of homes and businesses, and that city law forbids plowing or shoveling snow onto the streets or sidewalks.

Staff writer David Patch contributed to this report.

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