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Winter storm pummels Logan County

The fact that schools are closed today and many aren’t working a day removed from Christmas should benefit local road crews as they attempt to combat a snow squall expected to dump up to a foot of snow on the area.

Crews took to the streets sometime after 6 a.m. as the snow rapidly started to collect on the road.

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Logan County Convention and Tourism Director Nicole Cotterman walks toward her office as snow comes down in waves this morning. The Logan County Area of Chamber of Commerce and a few other businesses were the few signs of life in downtown Bellefontaine as a major storm began piling on snow beginning at about 6:30 a.m. today. (Examiner Photo/Reuben Mees)

“Between 4 and 5 a.m. there was nothing,” said Todd Bumgardner, general superintendent with the Logan County Engineer’s Office. “Then about 5:30, quarter of six I saw the first snow flake and it hasn’t stopped.”

Mr. Bumgardner said the first order of business for crews this morning was to get down a layer of salt before too much snow could accumulate.

“We’ve got 13 trucks out treating territories with salt,” he said. “We want to get material down before too much snow comes and probably with the wind and quickness of the snow, pretty soon we’ll turn into just trying to keep drifts off the road.”

A blizzard warning remains in effect through 1 a.m. Thursday and engineer’s office crews are slated to be on the roads around the clock through the balance of the storm, Mr. Bumgardner said, noting that a handful of trucks will remain on the roads throughout the night to keep main arteries passable for emergency traffic.

State trucks, too, have been out since the beginning of the storm.

The local Ohio Department of Transportation garage had dispatched 14 trucks by 7:30 a.m.

“That’s every truck we’ve got,” said Larry Plank, garage supervisor. Five of those 14 trucks were making their way across U.S. Route 33.

First, the ODOT trucks spread a layer of salt across the road; then they took to plowing the snow.

“We’ve got that layer of treatment down over everything and hopefully that will help prevent the snow from packing down as much and the plows can get in there and do their job,” Mr. Plank said, noting that ODOT trucks too will be on the roads overnight.

“The guys out there now will be out of here at midnight and another crew will be coming in,” he said. “I believe the wind is supposed to die down overnight and hopefully we can get everything cleaned up.”

Logan County Sheriff Andrew J. Smith issued a Level 1 snow emergency at 7:50 a.m. today, and expected to call a Level 2 emergency at 11 a.m.

A level 2 designation means that roadways are hazardous, with blowing and drifting snow possible. Employees should contact their employers to see if they should report to work.

The sheriff said very few traffic mishaps had been reported this morning, a far different story from the winter weather that hit the area Friday.  

“This storm couldn’t have come at a better time,” he said. “On Friday, we saw so many crashes when people were out and about, but today, the schools are closed and many people don’t have to work with some of the area factories being closed.”

Similarly, Mr. Bumgardner said plow crews will benefit from the fact that fewer motorists will be on the road today.

“With Honda out, with the schools out, there shouldn’t be as many cars on the road packing the snow down on the road and making it more difficult to remove.

“We won’t be able to keep them totally clean, but we want to keep the drifts down and the roads passable.”

It was a similar story within the city where Bellefontaine’s crews started their preparation for the storm on Christmas Day with pretreatment efforts and continued at 5:30 a.m. with more.

“It just helps keep the snow from binding to the pavement’s surface,” said Service-Safety James Holycross.

For the day, plow crews will continue to work at keeping main thoroughfares open. Street Department drivers will be supplemented by qualified drivers from other service departments to keep the crews fresh, Mr. Holycross said.

“We’re just trying to deal with it as it comes,” he said. “The next 24 hours could be kind of interesting. The most important time will be in the hours after it quits snowing.

The timing of the storm is not all that bad, he noted.

Honda’s auto plants are shut down for the annual holiday break as are all of it suppliers. Schools are on break and people are away on holiday trips.

That lessens traffic significantly, he said.

Still, he encourages people to stay home.

“We’re making plans to shorten the day for our nonessential staff so they can get home,” Mr. Holycross said.

The Logan County Commissioners’ Office and many other county offices were planning to close at 11 a.m. as well, personnel reported. Those considering visiting county offices should call in advance.

Examiner staff writers Mandy Loehr and Joel E. Mast contributed to this story.

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