“The milk and bread alert went out very early yesterday (Wednesday) evening, and most of the grocery stores were very busy,” EMS Director Kim Carver said. “A lot of them did the work ahead of time, stopping to get staples for the time period through the weekend.”
Late Thursday afternoon Scioto County Sheriff Marty V. Donini and Pike County Sheriff Richard N. Henderson each issued level one snow advisories.
A level one snow emergency means that roads are hazardous and drivers should drive cautiously.
The National Weather Service reported the area would have as much as 5 inches of snow by this morning.
At the same time the level one emergencies were being announced, the Ohio Department of Transportation crews were busy attempting to keep roads clear.
“The crews are out. They are using a mix of salt and grit, and they will probably, once the temperatures start getting too cold, have to lay off of that because salt doesn’t work too well when you dip below 20 degrees. They get more effectiveness out of calcium chloride,” ODOT District 9 Public Information Officer Kathleen Fuller said. “The plows are on the trucks and they will be plowing as they need to. Basically, they are on the go throughout the entire storm. They won’t stop until it’s over.”
Fuller said because of recent weather conditions it was a little more difficult to pre-treat the roadways in preparation for the storm.
“We have not had an opportunity over the last couple of days for brine treatment because of the cool temperatures,” Fuller said. “Our pavements in a lot of areas are already wet because of precipitation we have had previously. The upside to that is that because of the precipitation, and because of the materials that were put down, that calcium that we were using — it kind of created a little bit of the same effect that the brine would have had as far as the residual effect of the salt.”
State highway crews in Kentucky were working to clear snow-covered roadways Thursday before temperatures were expected to plummet, threatening to freeze the remaining moisture on pavement surfaces.
“The volume of snow hasn’t been overwhelming, but the frigid temperatures complicate our response strategy,” Acting Transportation Cabinet Secretary Mike Hancock said.
Hancock urged motorists to use extra caution when driving in winter weather and to remember that bridges and overpasses typically freeze before surface-level roadways.
Fuller talked about what motorists need to be aware of as they go out today.
“(Friday) one of the main concerns we have in our area is the drifting,” Fuller said. “So even as they are clearing the highway, we’re looking for some high winds to come through some of our areas. That is just going to blow it back over, and that’s going to be really difficult, because sometimes, as soon as you clear off a section of roadway, the wind will just pick it back up again and blow it right back over. We’re looking for the potential for some ice forming on the wet pavement, and, of course, blowing snow. We’re going to be watching that very carefully tomorrow (Friday), and that will be a part of the clean up effort.”
One of the problems that often accompanies a winter storm is the loss of electric service.
“If we would lose power in the city of Portsmouth, most people would choose to seek alternative heating sources and stay in their own homes,” Carver said. “But for those individuals who do not have the where-with-all to have a warm place to reside for the duration of the power outage — just as we have in the past — we would be working with our partners at Red Cross in opening up warm shelters for those folks who do not have an alternative, so they would have a safe warm place to be inside.”
Another consequence of bad winter weather and use of alternative heating sources is the prevalence of house fires, and ultimately fire deaths.
“We’ve already had one fire fatality in the new year. I’m not sure of exact causes for that, but it brings to the forefront that our area has had a tragic number of fatal fires in residences. Certainly heating devices have played a role in some of those,” Carver said. “We want to urge people, if they have had a power outage, and they decide to use alternative heating devices to make sure that the manufacturers recommendations are followed, and they are safe, so we can make 2010 a year in which we have fewer of those tragedies.”
Fuller reiterated ODOT’s seasonal slogan, “Ice and snow ... take it slow.”
FRANK LEWIS may be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 232