ST. MARYS — After 8 inches of snow fell on the region Wednesday, local residents and clean up crews now have the task of cleaning up from the first major storm of winter.
“About all of the county roads have had a complete round already and have been treated,” Auglaize County Engineer Doug Reinhart told The Evening Leader this morning. “Roads are still snow covered and slippery, and we have knocked back all the drifts. Hopefully later this morning we can make a second round and make another application.”
During the height of Wednesday’s storm, snow plow drivers had a tough time maintaining visibility. Strong winds created reduced visibility, which caused issues for drivers.
“As the snow was coming off the plow, if they were heading in the right direction, it all blew back into the windshield,” Reinhart said. “We had 18 trucks out trying to keep roads passable for the people who did make it to work.”
To get roads cleared for motorists, county crews hit routes at 4:30 a.m. Reinhart noted if the wind remained calm, crews should be able to make a lot of progress today.
“What we plow off will stay off the roads,” Reinhart said. “Our biggest challenge now will be to get the loaders and backhoes out in the areas where we have snow stacked up with no place to put it.”
The blizzard took a bite out of Reinhart’s fuel budget. Five years ago Reinhart used to budget $200,000 for fuel each winter. That figure is now up to $400,000.
“We plow 350 miles, 700 miles for both sides,” Reinhart said. “If we are out all day, it’s not uncommon to make three to four rounds so it adds up.”
The blizzard caused local and county agencies to issue a slew of advisories and warnings. By 2 p.m., Mercer County was under a level 3 snow emergency — which effectively closed the roads to the public. Auglaize County Sheriff Al Solomon urged the public to keep off roads to reduce the chances for accidents. Auglaize County does not use the three-level warning system for road conditions.
“I can remember during the ice storm, people had to move and there was a lot of confusion,” Solomon said, noting Shelby County also does not use the level system. “People had to deliver meals to the elderly and at one point, some thought we were at a level 3 and in fact we were not closing the roads. If the sheriff needs to close the roads, he can close the roads ... People here have seen snow before and if they know the conditions, for the most part, they act accordingly. I give credit to those who know the conditions.”
Solomon praised the work of county and township crews for keeping roads as clear as possible during the storm.
St. Marys Mayor Pat McGowan issued a level 2 snow warning for the city. Under that level, the public was encouraged to keep off city roads and move vehicles off the roads so crews could clear snow from the roadways.
Businesses and factories also closed for a portion of the day. Midwest Electric closed its office and Crown told second and third shift workers to remain at home during the storm.
Auglaize County EMA Director Troy Anderson said motorists appeared to pay attention to the weather conditions and kept off roads during the height of the storm. That allows crews to clear roads without having to battle traffic.
“That’s good because it gave everyone a chance, or at least an attempt, to keep the roads clean,” Anderson said. “Less people on the roads means less accidents. We also were fortunate enough to have no outages or we would have been in a world of hurt setting up shelters.”
Roads are expected to be at least partially covered for the next few days as temperatures will struggle to break the freezing point. Anderson stressed the importance of safe driving while motorists venture out during the upcoming holiday.
“I am seeing cars passing me doing 60 to 65 mph,” Anderson said. “All it takes is to hit a chunk or pothole in the snow and that will be enough to jerk your tire and you’ll lose control.”