With the snow expected to continue through tonight, area snowplow drivers are back into 24-hour mode.
Huron County drivers are working overtime to provide continuous plowing, Glenn Higgins, foreman for the county Engineer's office, said Friday evening. Both night and day crews work an extra four hours so that trucks are continuously working on county roads.
Salt supplies have been lower recently due to a state-wide shortage, but Higgins said Huron County received several semi-truck loads Friday afternoon. "We're pretty well set," Higgins said.
Gov. Ted Strickland's office sent out an e-mail to local governments Friday concerning the salt shortage. "Calls have come to us from several local governments regarding their need for salt and their inability to locate it," the message stated. "Some have been concerned that ODOT was either using all the salt or holding salt back. That is not the case.
"District Deputy Directors have been instructed to share salt if they can spare it, though our first priority is to clear state highways and ODOT's usual supplies are low as well," the message continued.
The message also gave numbers from other providers that might have salt available on a first-come, first-served basis.
One of the companies, Robinson Salt, is out of bulk salt for road use, but does have packaged salt available for use on walkways.
Todd Robinson, general manager, explained the shortage occurred because of severe weather in Wisconson earlier in the season.
"Wisconsin got belted really hard with storms so they started pulling the supplies out of Ohio," he said. When storms starting hitting Ohio in the past few weeks, he added, Ohio suppliers turned to West Virginia and then Tennessee.
Robinson's company is located near Dayton and they get most of their salt which is used as a water softener, for de-icing products and as food-grade salt from Louisiana. He said the surge in demand has left his suppliers with nothing to sell.
"They're totally tapped out. They don't have any supplies of bulk or bagged product," he said.
"It has been a very trying process because everything you're looking for was depleted very quickly," he said, adding he has received requests for supplies from the Canton area. Until he ran out of bulk salt, he was able to shift some of his supply from water softener salt to de-icing salt.
A storm predicted to dump double-digit snowfalls across much of the state caused a slew of early school dismissals and flights cancellations, as well as at least one fatal crash and hundreds of highway wrecks Friday, including one involving five entangled semi-trucks.
The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for much southern Ohio.
A 49-year-old woman on her way home from work died after the SUV she was driving ran off an icy, snow-covered roadway into a utility poll at about 4 p.m. in Pickaway County in central Ohio, the sheriff’s office said. The road was closed due to electric wires in the roadway.
The Ohio Highway Patrol responded to 610 crashes statewide over 7 1/2 hours Friday, spokesman Lt. Tony Bradshaw said. No one died in those accidents.
A 20-mile stretch of Interstate 70 in eastern Ohio near Zanesville was closed Friday afternoon after a semi went off the road and blocked traffic on the eastbound side and five tractor-trailers became entangled in an accident in the westbound lanes.
“There were semis pretty much everywhere,” said Kate Stickle, a district spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Transportation. “There were two that wound up in the median, there were two in the road, and there was one that rolled over on its side.” She did not know whether anyone was injured.
ODOT expected the westbound lanes to remain closed for the rest of the day, Stickle said.
A variety of weekend events were canceled or postponed, including a couple St. Patrick’s Day parades and a regional science competition at the university of Akron for 400 middle and high school students.
The storm, which stretched across the country to central Texas, was expected to be the heaviest in Ohio along a band that roughly follows Interstate 71 from Cincinnati through Columbus on to Cleveland, Akron and Youngstown, the National Weather Service said. Along that corridor, 10 inches of snow or more could accumulate by midday Saturday.
Many universities canceled afternoon classes, and some government offices shut down. Organizers of the boys and girls high school basketball tournaments in Columbus scrambled to postpone game times and notify fans.
Dozens of incoming and outgoing flights were canceled in Columbus on Friday.
While some local communities have recently reported tight road salt supplies after a season that has seen one battle with snow and ice after another, the Ohio Department of Transportation’s salt barns held an adequate supply for treating highways if the storm turned out to be as bad as forecast, ODOT spokesman Scott Varner said.
Already this winter, ODOT has used more than 850,000 tons of salt on federal and state highways in Ohio, 200,000 tons more than in an average year.
“I think everyone is anxious to see spring arrive,” Varner said.
In northeast Ohio, where more than 16,000 customers still had no power after an ice storm earlier in the week, FirstEnergy Corp. hoped to have service restored to everyone by noon Saturday.
Kyle Rose, 34, of Springfield in southwest Ohio, said he was heating up leftover chili for dinner instead of going to the grocery store in the snow. He plans to spend a lot of time shoveling snow this weekend.
“I guess I try to stay in front of it,” Rose said. “I’d rather shovel 4 inches twice than 8 inches once.”
Akron rescheduled Saturday’s St. Patrick’s Day parade for March 15, “when it’ll be a balmy 35 degrees and partly cloudy,” spokesman Mark Williamson said in a news release.
Snow and wind stopped Friday’s St. Patrick Day’s parade in Columbus, but it didn’t keep the Irish from painting shamrocks on the street at a downtown intersection — a tradition that stretches back decades. The ceremony was low on spectators, except for people scurrying back into office buildings with their lunches.
Past club president Dick Bolton said he’s been at every parade since 1979. He remembered two or three parades in the snow, but this year’s was the first to be canceled, he said. Club members were going to do their celebrating indoors, he said.
“Oh, it’s great,” said Pat Graham, vice president of the local Shamrock Club, who was draped in a green, white and orange sash. “Those sunny days you forget.”
EDITOR'S NOTE - Associated Press writers Doug Whiteman, John McCarthy and Rose Hanson in Columbus and James Hannah in Dayton contributed to this report.