A snowplow works to clear the road Thursday on Willipie Street while firefighters shovel and plow snow off the parking lot of the Wapkoneta Fire Department. (Staff photo/John Bush)
As wind speeds picked up Thursday afternoon and into the early hours of Friday morning, road conditions are expected to remain snow covered and hazardous.
According to Auglaize County Engineer, Doug Reinhart, the biggest problem Auglaize County will face will be the wind.
“The biggest problem we will have this afternoon and evening is the wind,” he said. “They’re predicting gusts up to 30 mph, which in west central Ohio, in the flat terrain we have, will cause drifting.”
Snowplows were out throughout the day Thursday, but with the wind blowing loose snow it may be hard to tell. Reinhart said an hour after plows have gone by you probably can’t even tell they’ve been there.
“Later on tonight (Thursday), even though we’re out all day making several rounds on each of the routes, I’m sure the roadways will probably be in a lot worse shape tonight, even after all of our efforts today,” Reinhart said.
Reinhart said winds were expected to subside overnight, which will give snowplows the opportunity to be out around 4 a.m. Friday morning.
“As long as the winds stay below 10 mph as they are predicting, we’ll definitely see some headway tomorrow and be able to clean them up and hopefully see better pavement before too long,” Reinhart said.
Auglaize County Sheriff Allen Solomon said drivers need to give themselves plenty of time on the roadways.
“Like we always say, the correct way is not always to hit your brakes right away when you start to slide,” Solomon said. “Tap those brakes, if you have time, put it in neutral so your tires aren’t spinning.”
The Auglaize County Engineering Department is trying to give people advisories on the weather and road conditions expected during the day.
“Basically, they really have to slow down,” Reinhart said.
Reinhart said with the gusts of wind and drifting some roadways may appear clear for a stretch, but before you know it you can be back into a drift.
“You have to be very aware that you can’t just stop as fast as you think you can,” Reinhart said. “That causes rear ending accidents, people sliding through intersections and so forth.”
Solomon and Reinhart agree that it is important for drivers to be patient and give clearing crews time and space while they try to clean the roadways.
“The county, township and state crews are out, and they do a good job in this county compared to some other counties,” Solomon said. “We need to give them some time to get that done and with the winds keeping up I think we will have some drifting late evening into the early morning.”
Reinhart said snowplows need space to clear the roads and intersections, and might not always be able to see what is directly behind them.
“If you see a snowplow, give them plenty of room if you could, they don’t have the vision in that plow that people think they do,” he said. “The problem is the loose snow coming off the plow’s blades comes back into their windshield and we have a problem with windshields icing up, wiper blades freezing and snapping off; just that loose snow causes a lot of problems with our visibility, so try to give the snow plow drivers as much room as possible.”
Reinhart said another thing to be concerned about is when you are following a snowplow and you come to an intersection.
To properly clean an intersection plows will actually push the snow into one corner, back up, and make several passes at pushing the snow into the corners of the intersection.
“If you’re tailgating them (plows), and right on top of them they can’t see you behind them and they very well at an intersection could be backing up,” Reinhart said. “Especially at an intersection, please try to give them as much clearance as possible.”
So far, Solomon said there have only been a few slideoffs and minor accidents, but no injuries. These accidents have taken place on county and state roads.
Reinhart said a couple of plows have broken down because of the weather, but they’ve been able to repair them and get them back out on the road. There are also one or two trucks on standby if needed.
This amount of snow is not unusual, but as Reinhart said, the terrain of Auglaize County and the wind speeds we are experiencing lead to troubles on the road.
“Had we had this without any wind we’d clean the roads off, treat them, and see dry pavements,” he said. “That’s not going to happen today.”