The snow came a little late for a white Christmas, but when it came Wednesday, it came with a vengeance.
Before noon, both Seneca and Hancock counties were put under Level 1 snow emergencies and events began to be canceled. The Wyandot County Courthouse, Health Department and Home Health, along with area public libraries, all closed their doors early.
“It’s slippery and (vehicles are) sliding out here,” Wyandot County Sheriff Mike Hetzel said Wednesday morning. “It’s just (cold) enough that it froze underneath (the snow).”
A winter storm blanketed area roads with at least 4 1/2 inches of snow as it made its way to the Northeast on Wednesday. The National Weather Service said by late afternoon Wednesday, the Upper Sandusky area was expected to continue to experience heavy snowfall and the temperature stood at about 27 degrees Fahrenheit. Heavy snow was expected to hit the area through the evening and into the night, the National Weather Service said. Northwest Ohio was under a winter storm warning through 7 p.m. today, with some counties in northern Ohio under a blizzard warning.
Wyandot County was under a blizzard warning from about 3:40 p.m. Wednesday until 7 a.m. today. Other affected areas included Crawford, Erie, Hancock, Huron, Marion, Ottawa, Sandusky and Seneca counties. The warning later was canceled and reduced to a winter storm warning. Snow totals in the region were well below predictions.
The Associated Press predicted zero visibility at times Wednesday afternoon and evening and estimated Upper Sandusky area snowfall at more than 4 inches. The National Weather Service estimated that 6 inches of snow fell on Wyandot County during the storm.
The Wyandot County Sheriff’s Office reported there were no injury accidents Wednesday, but vehicles could be seen off the roadway as people lost control of their vehicles on the ice- and snow-covered roadways. The sheriff’s office responded to several accident calls on U.S. 23, including one in which an unidentified man was trapped in his vehicle near the intersection of U.S. 23 and Ohio 199 South, but the man was uninjured.
The Upper Sandusky Police Department responded to an accident call at about 12:10 p.m. Wednesday. According to the report, Janet K. Grossman, Upper Sandusky, lost control of her vehicle at the intersection of Guthrie and Eighth streets, slid in the snow and struck a fire hydrant. The water department was contacted.
Sheriff Mike Hetzel did not issue any warning levels for Wyandot County on Wednesday, but several other counties in the region were under level 1 and 2 snow emergencies.
“We pretty much never go to (level) 1s,” the sheriff said. “We only do (level) 2s after conferring with the county engineer, the state highway department (and township) trustees. Why do people have to have snow levels (declared) to realize what it is when you can see what it is?”
Hetzel said there are consequences for the county when he decides to declare a snow emergency.
“There are factories and businesses that regulate to those (snow levels),” he said. “Some of them have to shut down; some don’t require people to work at different levels. … There are so many government controls as there are. I think people here in Wyandot County are pretty aware of the situation all-in-all and they’re better equipped.
“I don’t think people need total government control,” Hetzel added.
He said there were no accidents or vehicles off roadways on secondary roads on Wednesday. All of the crash reports the sheriff’s office responded to were on U.S. 23 or U.S. 30.
“We all need to make better preparations,” Hetzel said. “At times, it was extremely slippery.”
He said the temperature dropped overnight, but he did not observe a lot of blowing snow and drifts this morning.
“We have some of the best highway crews in any county,” the sheriff said. “With a little bit of caution and thought, people deal with it much better. … We live in Ohio and it’s the end of December. We’ve been very fortunate that we haven’t had (much) snow for the last couple years. … (The first winter weather event has) everybody a little uptight.”
The sheriff said it is important for people to slow down.
“We had people on the (four-lane highways Wednesday) who were exceeding the speed limit by 5, 10 miles per hour,” Hetzel said. “Slow down, make preparations and give yourself extra time. Watch breaking at intersections, curves and turns.”
He said it also is important for drivers to carry emergency travel bags, including a cell phone, food, water, blankets and flashlights.
“Have a cell phone to summon help,” Hetzel said. “Even if you don’t have an operational cell (phone) … it will still operate to call 911. It might not have the GPS system in it. Know where you’re at when traveling.”
He said drivers who become stranded should stay in their vehicles and keep a window cracked for ventilation. If possible, clear out the vehicle’s tail pipe to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, Hetzel said.
Wyandot County residents can listen to 106.3 and 100.5 FM and 1130 AM for alerts from the county, as well as sign up for text messages during winter weather events, Hetzel said. The sheriff’s office is in the process of considering its own emergency text message system, Hetzel said.
By ALISSA PAOLELLA