Open areas provided plenty of opportunity for drifting on Monday, especially on county roads. Even on Kear Rd. in Van Wert, as seen in this photo, winds pushed snow back in the roadway almost as soon as snow plows moved it back. (Times Bulletin/Kirk Dougal)
Open areas provided plenty of opportunity for drifting on Monday, especially on county roads. Even on Kear Rd. in Van Wert, as seen in this photo, winds pushed snow back in the roadway almost as soon as snow plows moved it back. (Times Bulletin/Kirk Dougal)

VAN WERT - “We have not seen conditions like this since the Blizzard of 1978,” said Van Wert County Emergency Management Director Rick McCoy. The difference between these two storms is the Blizzard of ’78 saw winds of 60-70 mph creating a massive blizzard event. The current storm had much wetter snow and lesser wind speeds that did not amount to the extreme blizzard conditions seen in 1978. 

After receive 12.5 inches of snow and gusty winds, plows were unable to keep up with the blowing snow that left many county roads completely drifted shut. Conditions finally reached the breaking point Sunday evening when Van Wert County Sheriff Tom Riggenbach was forced to issue a snow emergency for the county.

A snow emergency is the equivalent of a level three emergency in other counties, leaving travel completely limited to only emergency personnel. As a result, many businesses were forced to take a snow day as employees were unable to make the drive to work.

“Do not drive vehicles out in the county as the majority of the roads are drifted shut,” urged McCoy. “If your vehicle dies from the cold or becomes stuck, hypothermia and death is possible due to the extreme conditions of this weather event.”

The snow emergency for Van Wert County remained in effect all Monday and into Tuesday as winds continued to push an immense amount of snow across roadways. Monday evening, Lincoln Highway was the only county road to be plowed, and all other county and township roads were allowed to drift shut as plows were unable to keep up with the increasing workload.

“It will be the sheriff’s call as to when the snow emergency will be allowed to expire,” said Van Wert Emergency Management Director Rick McCoy. “Much of this decision will be based upon the wind as there is currently no way to keep roads open out there.”

Periodic power outages were also seen across the county and region, but electric companies were able to get things repaired before an extended period of time. Due to ongoing outage issues, Wren and Ohio City Fire Departments opened warming shelters for their residents.

“The Red Cross has also been placed on standby to open a shelter, but the problem is if one opened people couldn’t reach it with the roads shut,” noted McCoy. “Hopefully people knew that this storm was coming and how severe it might be and took precautions to keep warm and remain self-sufficient.”

Power remained out for over 400 DP&L customers in the Wren, Ohio City, and Glenmore areas into the night after losing electricity around 6:30 p.m. on Monday. DP&L was hopeful to have power restored by 1:00 a.m.

Outages on Monday were also reported in Mercer County. On Monday, shelters were set up in the Rockford Fire Station and the Mendon Fire Station.

As darkness fell Monday evening, the severity of the storm deepened as temperatures fell to -18 degrees with a windchill of 45 degrees below zero. All local schools were cancelled for Tuesday by 6:00 p.m. on Monday as well as many local businesses. Tuesday's closings will probably be a mix of closed and open. Mayor Don Farmer announced that the Van Wert Municipal Building offices will be open on Tuesday, but according to Judge Jill Leatherman, Van Wert Municipal Court will not be open.

“The current concern for Tuesday is that the very cold temperatures and windchill will continue in addition to the increasing winds leaving drifting situations similar to those on Monday,” remarked Mc Coy. “Again, we are recommending no travel in the county. People should continue to protect themselves and their pets from the cold. Individuals are also reminded to check on elderly neighbors particularly if the power goes out.”

Temperatures are expected to rise on Tuesday to a high of minus one degree. Once this high is reached on Tuesday, it is expected to remain the high all day and into Tuesday night. Wind gusts are expected to continue at 30 mph with a windchill at 40 degrees below zero.

Slight relief from the extreme cold is expected to enter Northwest Ohio on Wednesday when temperatures peak to 22 degrees. A very light snow is also expected to fall on Wednesday but is not expected to dramatically increase the large amounts already on the ground.