SIDNEY — After enjoying Tuesday’s 60 degree temperature, the reality of Ohio weather came back with a vengeance Wednesday when Old Man Winter returned to Ohio.
The light snowfall began before noon Wednesday and continued late into the evening as roads became slick and hazardous for travel. According to the Sidney Wastewater Treatment Plant, .27 inches of precipitation was recorded from 7 a.m. Wednesday to 7 a.m. Thursday. That translates into roughly 3 inches of snow.
Crews from city, state, county and townships hit the roads trying to stay ahead of the fast-falling snow.
City of Sidney street crews were out Wednesday morning — 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. — pretreating the streets with salt brine in preparation for the upcoming snow, said Gary Clough, assistant city manager and public works director. The drivers hit the streets again at 6 p.m. to start removing the snow which had fallen. The six trucks were out until 9:30 p.m.
“We have had four trucks out since 7:30 a.m. today (Thursday),” said Clough. “They’ll be stopping at 4p.m. and will just be plowing where needed and pushing back the snow drifts.”
A total of 21 man hours were clocked in because of the snow since 9:30 p.m. Wednesday. The city used 51 tons of salt since Wednesday night on the city streets.
All the crews for the Shelby County Engineer’s Office were out Wednesday afternoon. They continued plowing the roads until between 9 and 10 p.m. Wednesday night, said Nick Miller, chief deputy engineer.
“We sent them all back out at 4 a.m. this morning (Thursday),” said Miller. “By 6:30 a.m. they had plowed all the routes.”
The drivers, he said, were still out on the roads treating and replowing those where drifting snow was causing a problem.
“In the northern part of the county we have blowing snow,” said Miller. “We’ll continue to take care of it until the sun comes out tomorrow (Friday).”
Miller said the high traffic roads were all pretreated before the snow began falling Wednesday. While the plows were out removing the snow, the drivers were also applying salt and grit to the road. Four of the county’s trucks are equipped to apply beet juice and brine to the roads in addition to the salt and grit.
According to Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Jim Frye, the deputies handled 17 weather-related crashes since the snow started Wednesday. Of those crashes, 15 were vehicles in the ditch.
Sidney Police Chief Will Balling said officers handled three weather-related crashes in the city — one on South Pomeroy at 6 p.m. Wednesday; one at Fair Road at Interstate 75 at 8 p.m. Wednesday and one at West and North streets at 9 a.m. Thursday.
After starting out with a two-hour delay, all schools in Shelby County canceled classes for the day.
“After driving the roads last night, I made the decision to go on a 2-hour delay as the roads — especially side roads — were icy with a number of cars in ditches,” said Sidney City Schools Superintendent John Scheu. “A 2-hour delay gives everyone more daylight to navigate both roads, parking lots, and sidewalks.
“This morning there were four administrators including myself who drove the roads prior to making the decision to close.” Scheu said. “Even though our school parking lots were salted they were quite slippery and the temperatures were not forecast to climb much at all. Main roads were clear but side roads and sidewalks were snow covered and slippery.
“At about 7:30 a.m. 95.7 reported that Sidney had 7 inches of total snow,” he continued. The decision to delay or close is taken very seriously with student safety being the No. 1 factor. My decision is based on temperature/wind chill, weather forecasts, and having several other people drive different parts of the district and report back to me on their observations and input. Normally at 4:30 a.m. is when driving the roads occurs and by 6 a.m. a decision needs to be made if we delay school. In addition, the Shelby County Sheriff Department calls all county superintendents including SCS, the morning of inclement weather and what the road conditions are- including any fog in the area. Finally, superintendents in the county confer with one another on their own road conditions and if a delay or closing is imminent.”
Fairlawn Local Schools Superintendent Jeff Hobbs said his decision to cancel was two-fold for the district.
“Road conditions were not good last night and the a.m. forecast was for colder weather,” said Hobbs. “This made a delay the right call for last night. I believe parents appreciate the call the night before if possible so they can make plans in advance for their children.
“Today (Thursday) the back roads in the district were not good and made cancellation the right call,” said Hobbs. “As well, our district has had substantial illness running through our student and staff population. The cancellation made sense for safety purposes and potentially will improve the overall health of our district.”
Hardin-Houston Local Schools Superintendent agreed with his fellow superintendents that the weather made a cancellation a necessity.
“Like all of my superintendent colleagues across the county, as a courtesy to our H-H parents and students, if I have strong enough data the night before to predict the county and township roads and parking lot conditions for the morning, I’m happy to be able to give our families a message the night before,” said Claypool. “I know that it allows them additional time to prepare for child care, etc., and when possible, I like to do that for them.”
The lingering snow and frigid temperatures Thursday morning resulted in no school for H-H students.
“Like everyone else, I paid attention to the amount of projected precipitation and how it might react to the temperature of the ground and number of inches of snow expected overnight,” said Claypool. “If you add to that the continuous low temperatures below freezing that can set up a state of momentary driver thaw and immediate refreezing, that made the decision more difficult.
“The final decision always comes in the morning from just driving the county/township roads and projecting what the safety factor might be at the time the buses and students begin to drive. All of this data, plus district-to-district real-time road driving reports from colleagues completes the question of ‘to delay, to go, or to cancel.’ Today, it was to cancel,” said Claypool.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822; follow her on Twitter @MelSpeicherSDN. Follow the SDN on Facebook, www.facebook.com/SidneyDailyNews.