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Winter storm dumps snow, leads to 4 deaths in Ohio



Published: Sat, January 22, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Snowfall and cancellations were the order of the day at the start of the weekend.

STAFF/WIRE REPORTS

A major winter storm dumped several inches of snow across the Mahoning Valley and northern Ohio on Saturday, the latest in a series of storms that have pummeled the state since before Christmas.

Snow and freezing rain fell across the southern part of the state.

Slippery roads led to about 12 minor crashes in Trumbull County and another dozen in Mahoning County, police said. No serious injuries were reported in the Mahoning Valley by Saturday evening.

"We're lucky it's a weekend," said Sgt. John Rinko of the Ohio State Highway Patrol Canfield Post. "Very few people are working, and the kids are home from school."

Five inches reported

About 5 inches of snowfall was reported in various locations around northeast Ohio. Officials at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport reported 3.5 inches.

Nationally, the storm caused the cancellation of hundreds of airline flights and slowed highway travel, and it threatened to bury parts of the Northeast under more than a foot of flakes.

Storm warnings were posted from Wisconsin to New England, where the National Weather Service posted a blizzard warning in effect through Sunday.

One Ohio man died after falling through ice on a pond, and two other state residents died of apparent heart attacks while removing snow, authorities said.

New England bracing

Up to a foot of snow fell in parts of Ohio and other areas in the Midwest, which already had several inches on the ground from earlier storms. Up to 18 inches of snow was forecast in northern New Jersey and accumulations of up to 20 inches were possible in parts of New England, the weather service said.

Most school systems across the region canceled Saturday activities.

The storm made traveling difficult. Several counties posted advisories warning people not to drive, and one person was killed in a two-vehicle accident in southeastern Ohio.

Numerous events ranging from college basketball games to SAT testing were canceled or postponed, but the storm did not cause power outages, floods or other problems as with previous storms.

One spot in Toledo received 9 inches of snow Saturday while other parts of Ohio generally received about 5 inches -- with more snow possible into this morning. Snowfall levels, however, generally were below what forecasters predicted.

"I'm not complaining," said Dennis Bray, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Cleveland. "It's not nearly as bad as what had been expected."

The storm did not stop Keith Anderson, 41, of Pittsburgh, his wife and another couple from attending the 48th annual Cleveland Mid-America Boat show at the I-X Center near the Cleveland International Airport.

"Hey, to come see boats, I'll drive through anything," said Anderson, who came to the area on Friday, before the latest storm moved through.

Spokesman Shawn Fergus said the number of visitors at the show, which has 1,200 power and sailboats, started off slow on Saturday and then picked up in the afternoon. Typical attendance on a Saturday during the show is 15,000 to 20,000.

Weather-related deaths

Laura Hummer, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Transportation in Lake, Geauga and Cuyahoga counties in northeast Ohio, said 70 crews were working around the clock to keep roads clear. "Things are passable, nothing is closed, but we are getting hit pretty hard though," she said.

Carrie B. Wiggens, 20, of Reedsville, was killed Saturday morning on state Route 7 in Meigs County when she lost control of her car and it slid into the path of a van, the State Highway Patrol said. Two children in the van were injured.

Authorities reported three weather-related deaths in southwest Ohio on Friday, two who apparently suffered heart attacks while shoveling or removing snow, the Montgomery County coroner's office said.

The third person died when he fell through ice and apparently drowned while scouting for waterfowl in Caesar Creek State Park, Greene County Sheriff Gene Fischer said.

Scott Hickman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington, said snowfall levels generally were lower than expected because the low pressure system did not move as far south as had been expected.

As snow moved out of the state Saturday night, the winds picked up. Gusts were expected to reach up 40 mph, causing problems with blowing and drifting snow.

Windchills were expected to fall to 10 to 15 below zero into Sunday morning. The winds should calm in the afternoon with high temperatures about 20 for much of the state.

Travel snags

For travelers, the storm caused frustrating delays.

About 400 flights were canceled Saturday at Chicago's O'Hare International and dozens more were called off at the city's Midway Airport. More than 200 people stayed the night at the two airports because of flights canceled when the storm arrived there on Friday.

Flights that weren't canceled were delayed up to 90 minutes, with more delays and cancellations expected as the storm started creating problems at airports on the East Coast, said Chicago Department of Aviation spokeswoman Annette Martinez.

Minnesota-based Northwest Airlines issued a weather waiver saying travelers booked on flights to 12 states in the Northeast and the District of Columbia could reschedule without having to pay penalties.

Northwest's home airport, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, had both of its main runways open Saturday after shutting them down one at a time Friday for plowing, said airport spokesman Patrick Hogan. Airlines canceled some 200 flights there Friday.

By noon at Philadelphia International Airport, the storm had already wiped out about 25 percent of the normal load of 1,100 daily arrivals and departures. A private jet and a commuter plane slid off a taxiway at Pittsburgh International Airport; no one was injured.




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