Storm strikes

A winter storm that blanketed the region today was expected to dump close to a foot of snow on Auglaize County.

Late Tuesday night, the National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for Auglaize County. That warning, which is in effect until 1 a.m. Thursday, is calling for 8 to 10 inches of snow as well as wind gusts of 40 mph. The high winds, coupled with heavy snowfall, caused near white-out conditions and posed risks to motorists who traversed city and county roads today.

“I am sticking with that higher snow amount — probably 6 to 10 inches,” Auglaize County Emergency Management Agency Director Troy Anderson said this morning. “Some were predicting up to 14 inches, but I just don’t see it. It started snowing here at about 6:30 a.m. and by 8 a.m., we’ve probably got half an inch already.”

Road crews across the county took to snow plows early this morning in an effort to keep roads passable. Local law enforcement also fielded several calls reporting vehicles in ditches.

“From what I am seeing, the east-west roads are the worst as far as being snow covered,” Anderson said. “The north-south roads are slippery and with that amount of snow coming down, there is going to be some ice. If you don’t have to be out driving, stay home.”

For those who have to venture out, Anderson stressed safety and patience.

“Give yourself extra time,” Anderson said. “What we are seeing with some of the slide-offs is that people are using their cell phones to take pictures and that causes another accident. Concentrate on driving and get past the scene so we can keep traffic flowing.”

In the event of power outages, shelters are ready to be mobilized.

“The county EOC is up and on stand-by,” Anderson said. “We are ready to go.”

Wapakoneta Safety-Service Director Bill Rains and Public Works Superintendent Meril Simpson have been tracking the storm since Monday, and they sent crews out early this morning.

“We are plowing the streets already,” Rains said this morning. “We are planning on splitting the crew at noon and half will go home and take a break and then the other half will take a break at 4 p.m. and we will hit the streets in full force after the event hits. The snow is blowing past my window horizontally so the wind is blowing a lot of the snow onto the roadway so it is hard to keep up.

“We pretreated the streets this morning with calcium chloride, or brine, and hopefully that will help,” the safety-service director said. “It is tough to battle an event like this until the winds and the snow calms down.”

He said he and Simpson had kept track of the storm since early Monday and had crews removing snow piles on downtown streets from last week’s storm and taking them to sites for dumping. Rains noted it is common practice, but they did place a special emphasis on crews getting rid of the piles of snow in downtown especially to make way for snow from this event.

He also said it was nice weather forecasters missed the time the storm was supposed to hit by a few hours because it enabled his crews to have a nice Christmas and a full night’s rest. The storm was earlier predicted to hit at 11 p.m. Christmas Day.

Auglaize County Engineer Doug Reinhart planned to keep crews busy throughout the day clearing roads.

“It will be a busy day for us,” Reinhart said. “The winds are going to dictate how well we control and clean the roads. Right now, we are looking at 20 mph winds.”

Reinhart doubted if crews would be able to keep roads clear today. The high winds meant roads that were once clear became snow covered in a matter of minutes.

“The positive is that the snow is supposed to stop late this evening and the prediction is the wind speeds will be less than 10 mph tomorrow,” Reinhart said. “If what they are saying is true, we will be able to clear and treat the roads with salt and beet juice and as long as the wind doesn’t cross that 10 mph barrier, we should have the roads clean and clear by tomorrow night.”

If motorists encounter snow plows, Reinhart stressed the importance of giving drivers enough room to maneuver.

“Give us room — especially near intersections because when we plow the intersections, we push back all four corners,” Reinhart said. “That means we do some backing up and if you are too close to the trucks, the driver won’t see you.”

Wapakoneta Daily News Managing Editor William Laney contributed  to this story.