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Ohio Valley readies for snowfall

T-L Photo/ROBERT A. DEFRANK Martins Ferry city worker Tyus Harris prepares some snow plows and salt spreaders for the expected snowfall Sunday night and Monday morning. The public is asked to be cautious when on the road, particularly around plows.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Area agencies and communities are bracing for anticipated heavy snowfall Sunday night and Monday morning, with up to a foot of snow possible.

According to a Friday evening update from the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh, snowfall is expected to occur around 7 p.m. Sunday with more arriving at 1 a.m. and then at 7 a.m. Monday. The forecast calls for 8-12 inches of snow in the region, falling at a rate of 1-2 inches per hour.

The area has a more than 60 percent chance of seeing 6 inches or more of accumulation, and a more than 90 percent chance of receiving 2 inches or more. A winter storm advisory or warning is expected.

Accumulation of snow is very likely, the NWS said.

Temperatures will be low, so the snow will remain on the ground long after the snowfall has ceased. More information can be found at weather.gov/pittsburgh/winter.

Meanwhile, the Ohio Department of Aging released an advisory urging residents to plan for severe weather. The department encourages all Ohioans to check on older friends and family members before, during and after the storm.

The public is advised to stay inside if possible and to exercise good judgment and take precautions if it is necessary to take to the roads. AAA advises drivers to not only slow down, but to accelerate and decelerate slowly and to never use cruise control on snow-covered roads.

Ohio Department of Transportation District 11 spokeswoman Lauren Borell said ODOT is in “good shape” with materials, salt, regular employees, seasonal help and auxiliary drivers.

“We’re keeping our eye on the forecast and attending various meetings with the National Weather Service to get a good feel for what to expect,” she said. “We’re planning on bringing crews in starting at noon on Sunday to all seven of our counties. Those crews will work 12-hour shifts around the clock. We are providing 24/7 coverage and they will work until the event is over and all roads are clear.”

District 11 includes Belmont, Carroll, Columbiana, Harrison, Holmes, Jefferson and Tuscarawas counties. The district maintains over 3,800 lane miles of interstate, federal and state highways and 950 bridges throughout its seven-county region.

For residents of those counties who must be on the road, Borell asks that they show consideration for the ODOT crews.

“Keep in mind, our trucks out there will drive well below the posted speed limit,” she said. “Please give them plenty of room to work. Should you need to pass them, make sure they pass with caution. Our trucks are big, they’re heavy. They don’t stop on a dime.”

Sgt. Rocky Hise of the Ohio State Highway Patrol St. Clairsville Post advises the motoring public to take their time and be aware of vehicles around them.

“If the roadway looks wet, assume that it’s going to be possibly frozen and proceed accordingly,” he said. “Be aware of your surroundings.”

Hise said normally the first few major snowstorms of the season tend to result in more crashes.

In Harrison County, Emergency Management Director Eric Wilson said his office was ready to provide support and resources if needed.

“We support all our partner agencies,” he said. “Fire and EMS are going to respond as normal. There’s an increase in car accidents. They’re prepared for that. They train for that. … I don’t anticipate anything Sunday coming into Monday that they haven’t handled before. … If you don’t have to be out there, don’t be out there. Give all those people the room to work.”

To the south, officials are less certain of what to expect.

“Everything seems to be hinging on which way that storm actually goes, how much we’re going to get compared to possible rain or ice,” Monroe County Sheriff Charles Black said.

He said preparations were underway Friday and echoed advice for the public to be cautious.

Municipal leaders were also busy getting prepared.

“We’re ready,” Martins Ferry Mayor John Davies said. “We’ve got seven salt boxes filled up, plows. … We’re just waiting.”

In St. Clairsville, the public is reminded that in the interest of giving room to snow plows, ordinances prohibit parking on any city street from midnight to 6 a.m. when snowfall exceeds 2 inches.

Cumberland Trail Fire District Chief Tim Hall said the firefighters were preparing the vehicles and equipment.

“We make sure all of our vehicles are prepared on a daily basis and ready to respond to whatever the incident may be,” Hall said. “We make sure we have enough salt here for our vehicles in the event roads get bad and we need to take care of things if the other entities are tied up.”

He added that staffing may increase Sunday night into Monday morning, with employees using the department’s plow truck to assist ambulances as needed.

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