With a winter storm bearing down on Northeast Ohio, local and state road crews are gearing up for what is expected to be a long, windy, and snow-filled 72 hours. An Ohio Department of Transportation official said snow plows will be running non-stop until the event has ended with drivers working 12-hour shifts.
The winter storm, which will likely warrant a Winter Storm Warning by Monday evening, will be the first significant snowfall for the Greater Cleveland area. The traditional snow belt areas are forecasted to receive upwards of a foot of snow. Along with the heavy snowfall, wind gusts between 30 and 45 miles per hour are to be expected through Wednesday morning. By the morning commute Tuesday, the Greater Cleveland area could be forced to reckon with 1-3” inches of snow with 4-8” of snow expected in areas of Lake, Geauga, Eastern Cuyahoga, and Ashtabula Counties.
“We are already starting preparations for Monday night through Thursday,” said ODOT spokeswoman Marissa McDaid. “As of this evening, we’ll have about 80 trucks on the road in Cuyahoga, Geauga and Lake Counties.”
McDaid said ODOT’s team of drivers will be working in 12-hour shifts throughout the entirety of the event. Additional mechanics and support staff will also be on call. Crews began preparing for the winter season back in October as all of the agency’s snow plows and other vehicles underwent a rigorous 180-point inspection.
“The last few years we’ve had a 100 percent rate of getting all of our roads completely clear within two hours of the end of a snow event,” McDaid said. “Even if you don’t see us out on the roads, just know we are operating 24/7.”
ODOT could not pretreat the roads because the storm brought rain first, which would have easily washed it away before it became effective. With areas east of the Cleveland metro area receiving the brunt of the storm, McDaid said ODOT has the ability to re-direct some plow drivers to the hardest hit areas as needed.
“You really might see that this week. It’s not necessarily a widespread snow event,” McDaid said. “Everyone may get some snow but perhaps those bands will be focusing heavily on Geauga or Lake counties.”
With 1-3 inches of snow expected overnight Monday into Tuesday morning, McDaid said drivers need to be especially patient during the morning commute on Tuesday, especially with it being the first significant snowfall of the season. This is especially true on I-77 South of Cleveland. Ongoing construction has reduced the highway to two narrow lanes in some locations.
“We might have to drive slower. That’s usually the coping mechanism for all things in winter. You just have to slow down and be careful especially if you have a plow on your vehicle,” McDaid said. “We hope everyone remembers to give everyone space. I think it doesn’t just apply to ODOT vehicles but all trucks. People don’t really realize that if you can’t see their mirror, they can’t see you.”
According to McDaid, ODOT-Cleveland has 60,000 tons of salt available with an option to purchase more salt later in the season. Last winter, ODOT went through 100,000 tons of salt.