Snowstorm buries Ohio
Drifts, power outages plague region; street parking banned
A heavy weekend snowstorm that is expected to taper off this morning has left power outages, traffic jams and stranded motorists in its wake.
Up to 15 inches will have fallen in the Columbus area before the storm dissipates, according to AccuWeather. Flurries could continue through this morning, but further accumulation will be minimal, it said.
Parking along Downtown streets is prohibited today so that Columbus snowplows can clear the roadways, said Mary Webster, assistant director of the city's Public Service Department. Parking will resume with Tuesday's morning rush hour, she said.
Classes at Ohio State University's Columbus campus and at Ohio University in Athens are canceled today. Most elementary and secondary schools around Ohio are closed today for Presidents Day.
Some southern Ohio counties did not receive as much snow, but snowdrifts and downed power lines caused hardships yesterday. More than 30,000 customers along the Ohio River were without power.
Sheriffs in 20 counties along the I-70 corridor and in southern Ohio -- including Athens, Fairfield, Fayette, Hocking, Meigs, Perry, Pike and Vinton -- declared Level 3 snow emergencies, prohibiting travel on all roads.
The weekend snowfall appears to be the worst in central Ohio since January 1996, according to the National Weather Service.
In Franklin County, salt trucks and snowplows focused on major roadways. Side streets won't be treated before this morning, Webster said. "It's not easy to clear streets when it continues to snow.''
Today's no-parking area is bounded by Goodale Street, 4th Street, Livingston Avenue and the Scioto River.
"We understand this is an inconvenience to businesses,'' Webster said. "But we have to get the cars off the streets so we can plow. This is the only alternative.''
Because of the weather, Rumpke will not pick up trash in Franklin and surrounding counties today. No collection was scheduled for Columbus because of the holiday.
Southern Ohio counties reeled under snow and freezing rain that brought down trees. Some falling limbs snapped power lines.
About 32,000 customers from Portsmouth to Point Pleasant along the Ohio River were without power.
Those included 11,000 in Portsmouth, 7,000 in the Ironton area and 12,000 in Point Pleasant, said a spokesman for American Electric Power.
Extra crews were summoned to help make repairs, but it likely will be Tuesday before power is completely restored, he said.
"There's nothing but solid ice. There's lines down everywhere and they keep falling one after another,'' a Portsmouth police officer said.
South of Columbus, winds gusted to more than 30 mph, creating near-whiteout conditions and waist-high drifts on rural roads.
Motorists could be ticketed for misconduct for driving during a Level 3 snow emergency, though sheriffs' offices reported issuing no tickets.
"People are staying in, thank God,'' said a sheriff's dispatcher in snow-socked Perry County southeast of Columbus.
Four- to 6-foot snowdrifts were reported in parts of Fairfield County. Fairfield Medical Center in Lancaster canceled elective surgeries scheduled for today.
Fourteen plow crews were fighting to keep roads open in parts of Fairfield County, where the National Weather Service reported more than a foot of snow.
"It's a never-ending job,'' said Larry Sheppard, safety director for the county engineer's office. "We're not getting anything really cleared because the snow won't stop. And the wind piles up drifts where you just plowed.''
Six-foot drifts blocked Sandhill Road in Amanda until a plow blasted its way through, and 3-foot drifts covered Election House Road, according to the Fairfield County Sheriff's Office.
"We had two people knock on our door whose cars got stuck,'' said Lowell Miller, who lives on Sandhill Road. "They just plowed it, but it won't be open long. The drifts along the fences are 3 to 4 feet deep.''
Several restaurants in Lancaster closed, the sheriff's office said.
Pizza shops told delivery drivers to park their cars because of fears they could be ticketed.
"We decided it was best for our drivers, particularly if they could get a ticket. We shut off deliveries about 2:30 (p.m.). Besides, it's pretty nasty out there,'' said J.P. Seesholtz,, manager of Donato's on E. Main Street in Lancaster.
Pizza delivery drivers are not considered emergency workers or essential personnel -- the only ones permitted access to rural roads.
"Pizza shops that have called and asked, we've told them that if they are on the road doing deliveries, there is a possibility of receiving a ticket,'' said Mel Meloy, communications supervisor for the sheriff's office.
But some folks gloried in the harsh weather.
Plenty of people made it to Galyan's at Easton Town Center to buy boots, sleds and ski equipment.
"I want to play in the snow,'' said Noel Hayes, who bought a pair of snow boots.
Hayes, 37, of Gahanna, planned to frolic near a creek behind her apartment with her husband and three of their dogs.
"Some people cringe in the snow, but I love it,'' she said. "I'm from New Jersey, so I'm used to it.''
Some video-rental stores also reported brisk business
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