SEVILLE, Ohio — State transportation officials have wrapped up the preparations needed as a massive winter storm bares down on Northeast Ohio. The storm system is expected to bring a stinging drop in temperatures, wind gusts up to 60 miles per hour along with measurable snow. In response, Ohio Department of Transportation snow plow crews will be working 12 hour shifts until the job is done.
The storm’s triple threat of rain-turning-to snow, wind and cold is expected to make a difficult job even more challenging as drivers will be forced to reckon with a significant chance of flash freezing as well as blowing and drifting snow.
“Our crews have been prepping our equipment and getting it ready the last day or so. Our crews are going to come in tonight and they are going to working around the clock until the end of this event,” said Crystal Neelon, a former snow plow driver-turned-spokesperson for ODOT District 3. “In each of our vehicles, we have temperature sensors that monitor air temperature and road temperature so our crews will be monitoring that. Once they get within 3-4 degrees of freezing, they’re going to start putting material down on the road because when the temperature drops that quickly, the chances of flash freezing is going to be significant.”
That sudden transition from rain-to-snow is expected to happen overnight Thursday into Friday. However, since the winter storm is expected to start off with rain, the opportunity of pre-treating the roadways is essentially non-existent. Once the transition starts, time will be of the essence, Neelon said.
“If we pretreated with the salt brine, it would just wash off the roads,” Neelon said. “That’s where our crews are really going to have to pay attention to temperatures and pavement temperatures and really trying to get the material down on the roadway as quickly as they can in a short amount of time.”
Once the event enters Saturday, the winds will become the major concern. With gusts between 50 and 60 mph, blowing and drifting snow could cause significant snow drifts to pile up in certain locations.
“Crews are going to be fighting blowing and drifting snow and they’re potentially going to have downed trees, downed power lines and power outages that they are going to have to contend with,” Neelon said. “It’s almost like no matter how much you plow it, how much you treat it, you just can’t get that to stop. It’s really dangerous for motorists. Our crews are going to be constantly fighting those probably most of the day on Saturday.”
Neelon encouraged motorists to prepare accordingly before hitting the road — if they feel like they have to. Gov. Mike DeWine encouraged Ohioans to stay home until the event is over.
For those that end up traveling, Neelon said ODOT crews will be doing their best to make the roads as safe as possible.
“We work on 12 hour shifts around the clock. It doesn’t matter if it is a holiday or not,” Neelon said.
“Obviously, they would love to be at home with their families but they also really understand the importance of their job and how much they are needed by the motoring public. A lot of our guys are really considerate of that and they want to make the roads nice to help folks get to and from their families.”