Winter has arrived in Ohio more than two weeks ahead of schedule.
The first significant winter storm of the season dumped up to five inches of snow on parts of the state Wednesday, bringing rush hour traffic to a crawl, causing numerous accidents and closing schools.
Forecasts called for mostly dry conditions today, with a chance of snow tonight into Friday, the National Weather Service said. Temperatures today were expected to barely reach 30 degrees, with warmer temperatures and rain in the weekend forecast.
Under clear skies, temperatures were in the single digits or colder in many parts of the state early this morning. The lowest was 6 degrees below zero in Lancaster, about 30 miles southeast of Columbus, said National Weather Service meteorologist Myron Padgett.
Winter officially arrives on Dec. 22.
The Highway Patrol in Norwalk said several cars were stuck in ditches throughout Wednesday. Norwalk police reported one minor weather-related crash on Main Street.
Dispatchers were too busy to compile the number of morning accidents Wednesday handled by the Butler County sheriff's office north of Cincinnati, said Sgt. Monte Mayer, office spokesman.
"They were literally swamped with cars sliding off roadways, or crashes," he said.
Interstate traffic in the Cincinnati and Columbus areas crawled along at speeds as slow as 5 mph. There were numerous spinouts and fender-benders on the interstate highways.
At Rickenbacker International Airport in Columbus, a small airplane carrying canceled bank checks to Buffalo, N.Y., crashed amid falling snow about a mile from the takeoff runway, killing two onboard, authorities said. Weather was being considered by investigators determining a cause of the crash.
Interstate 70 westbound was closed for more than 12 hours after a semi flipped over shortly after 7 a.m. and was struck by a tanker truck in eastern Ohio's Muskingum County.
It took so long to reopen the highway because the tanker was carrying a hazardous chemical that had to be transferred to another tanker, said Jim Spain, an Ohio Department of Transportation spokesman.
In the Columbus area, a fleet of 25 snowplows and salt trucks began deploying when the first flakes started falling at midnight.
"This morning was kind of rough because (there was) a lot of traffic in our way," Tom Nutini, highway superintendent for the Franklin County Engineer's Office, said Wednesday. "Our guys were stuck in it like everyone else."
In Dayton, snow-covered highways caused multiple accidents, sent vehicles skidding off the road and snarled traffic.
School districts around the state canceled or delayed their classes.
The closing of school in the Dayton suburb of Kettering forced Kara Andrews to miss work at Miami Valley Hospital so she could stay home with her 10-year-old son.
"I don't really have anyone to call," said Andrews, 45.
Today, as police agencies warned about invisible "black ice" and leftover snow on many roads, a few districts kept schools closed, while several others delayed the start of school by one or two hours.
Between 4 and 5 inches of snow fell in western and central Ohio. Dayton and Columbus each reported 4 inches. Five inches fell in Bucyrus and Mansfield, and Newark northeast of Columbus recorded 5.5 inches.
A little farther south, snow tapered off to the point that crews at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport were able to keep snow from accumulating on runways.
At Dayton International Airport, runways remained open, but some incoming flights from Cincinnati, Chicago and Milwaukee were delayed, according to airport spokesman Gene Conrad.