The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

February 21, 2013

Blowing snow closes schools, causes problems for motorists

By SHELLEY TERRY, CARL FEATHER and MARGIE NETZEL
Star Beacon

— Northeast Ohio was hammered Wednesday with lake-effect snow, closing many schools and making driving difficult.

A lake-effect snow warning was posted for Lake, Geauga and Ashtabula counties east of Cleveland until 10 p.m. Wednesday and another 6 inches of snow fell before it was all over.

Blowing snow caused visibility problems for morning drivers, and a jackknifed tractor-trailer caused delays on Interstate 90. Most of the schools in Lake County and Ashtabula, Jefferson and Geneva in Ashtabula County were closed Wednesday.

Buckeye Local Superintendent Joseph Spiccia said he made the decision to keep the district’s schools open after looking at the roads and watching the snowbands on radar starting at 4:30 a.m. He said the snow was much worse in Lake County, where he lives.

“At the time, the plows were out and we felt the roads would be adequate for us ... the bad snow was in Lake County and we felt like we did not have a snow problem.

Spiccia’s hunch turned out to be right. While some buses on the high school and middle school runs were up to 30 minutes late, the elementary buses ran on time. Bus drivers reported that the biggest challenge was cautious motorists slowing down for the conditions. Overall, attendance took a minimal hit from the weather, he said.

“Overall, we did not have any problems to speak of,” Spiccia said. “I’d rather be a half-hour late for school than miss a whole day for instruction.”

Ashtabula Area City Schools Superintendent Patrick Colucci said it was too icy and too cold outside to have school in his district.

“It was really bad,” he said. “There was ice underneath the snow, people were sliding when they tried to stop their cars and the wind-chill factors were below zero.”

Geneva residents knew the weather outside was frightful when the wineries closed. Laurello Winery on Route 307 in Harpersfield Township shut its doors because of too much white stuff and a lack of indoor heat. The winery will reopen today.

Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers started the day responding to crashes, Sgt. Ron Bornino said.

“We basically went from crash, to crash, to crash all morning,” he said. “The crashes started immediately, just as soon as people left for work. I got here at 6 a.m. and started responding to crashes.”

Bornino said troopers didn’t have to respond to any crashes on Interstate 90, which had been well cleared and salted by the Ohio Department of Transportation.

“The state routes were pretty bad,” he said. “Routes 307 and 534, especially. There was a thin layer of ice in untreated spots and it was very slippery.”

Bornino said though the crash volume was high, the number of injuries was low.

“If there were any injuries this morning, they were very minor,” he said.

Persistent squalls kept the troopers busy even after the initial accumulation of snow was cleared from the roadways, Bornino said.

Troopers are also stopping vehicles that are not properly cleared of snow, he said.

“We will stop you and make you clear off your mirrors and windshields,” he said. “You must have visibility. Drivers should also know that they are responsible for anything that flies off their car and hits another vehicle or causes a crash. Don’t take a chance — take the five minutes and dust off your car.”

Bornino said license plates must also be clear with the numbers visible.

“We have to be able to see the numbers on your license plates regardless of snow and mud,” he said.