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First of double-dose of snow hits the Valley



Published: Wed, February 5, 2014 @ 12:01 a.m.

RELATED: Road salt in short supply to fight Ohio's winter ravages

Staff report

YOUNGSTOWN

The first hard punch of a one-two weather combination has hit us.

Depending on where in the Mahoning Valley you happen to be reading this, you awoke to between 3 and 10 inches of snow from overnight, said Jess Briganti, 21 WFMJ-TV weather anchor.

And snow may not be the biggest problem.

There’s a strong chance of a layer of ice over snow occurring this morning, causing roads to be slick, said John Mayers, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Cleveland.

“We could see a wintry mix with ice forming from freezing rain and sleet,” he said.

More snow is expected after 8 a.m. today with an additional 1 to 3 inches.

Many people are tired of the lousy weather — record-low temperatures three days last month and above-average snowfall, Briganti said.

“People tell me, ‘Enough already,’” she said. “I, myself, am ready for sunshine.”

Mayers added: “People are probably sick [of the weather]. It’s exciting for us in our business, but not so much for others.”

There’s a potential snowstorm developing this weekend.

“We could get snow on Saturday and Sunday, but it’s not going to be like” today’s snowstorm, Mayers said.

But Briganti said, “It’s too early to talk totals, but it might not be pretty. It’s brewing up in the East. There is snow in the forecast.”

Johnny DeFrank, who co-owns the Lowellville-based Clutch Performance Lawn & Landscape, said he just wants to get through this winter and begin spring work.

But in the meantime, DeFrank and his business partner, Aaron Lough, are trying to make a few extra dollars by helping those in Mahoning County who might be snowed in and in need of some snow-removal assistance.

It’s their first year doing so, DeFrank added, noting that though the two don’t have a plow, they’re armed with shovels and snowblowers. It was too good of an opportunity to pass up.

“It’s just one of those cold, snowy winters,” DeFrank said. “It really makes people appreciate spring and summer — and it toughens us up.”

While many school districts throughout the Valley began to announce school closings last night — see Vindy.com or WFMJ.com for the complete list — most communities also have set parking bans, including Youngstown, Warren, Niles, Boardman, Struthers, Weathersfield, New Middletown, Brookfield and Hubbard. This allows road crews to more easily clear streets of snow.

Hubbard police have one four-wheel-drive SUV, said Police Chief Jim Taafe. “It will be on the road,” he said, as will the department’s front-wheel-drive Impalas. The department will not rely on its old rear-wheel-drive Ford Crown Victorias, which are terrible in the snow, he said.

Ed Wildes, Struthers safety-service director, said any winter is “hard on everything,” including the city’s roads and utilities, but that this winter has been worse than normal.

Heavy snowfall melting down through cracks in the asphalt has resulted in a “freeze-and-thaw” pattern that is causing the city’s roads — many of which already are in need of repair — to develop potholes and break up further.

Wildes noted he’s also instituted far more citywide parking bans this winter than in past winters, especially because clearing snow from the city’s 72 miles of street is a time-consuming endeavor.

In addition, the street department is running low on the salt-and-gravel mixture used to treat roads, having gone through more of it so far this winter than during all of last winter. More than 400 tons of salt and 600 tons of gravel have been used, Wildes said, adding that the city is expecting a delivery of more supplies today.

“Everybody’s experiencing the same problems,” Wildes said.

Some parents may have to rearrange their routines for kids home from school.

Debbi Beeman of Boardman is the mother of three boys in second, fourth and seventh grades.

“There’s definitely some cabin fever going on,” she said.

Up to today, Boardman schools had canceled classes four days — fewer than many Mahoning Valley districts.

Because she works from home, Beeman hasn’t faced the problems of having to take time off from work or make other arrangements for her children’s care because of school cancellations.

“I’ve been getting up early each day to get work done,” she said. “The kids, of course, are able to sleep in. They’re used to me working from home.”

During days when the temperatures made it too cold for them to go outside, the boys spent their time watching movies or playing video games.

Tabatha Dickson has two school-age children and works days as a records clerk for the Hubbard Police Department.

“Thankfully, the two days they delayed, they delayed the night before,” she said, adding that meant she had enough notice. Her college-age son, who attends Youngstown State University, was able to stay home when the schools and the college closed during the last cold snap.

Her husband, who works nights, will be home today.

“I feel for these people when day cares close,” she said.

Planning goes into having school on bad weather days, too.

Colleen Murphy, Austintown Local Schools transportation director, makes sure to watch the radar whenever a snowstorm is expected. She also drives the roads and calls the Austintown Police Department for a road report.

The older bus fleet at Austintown has been affected by the weather this year.

“The brine eats away at the buses,” Murphy said.

The bus drivers are given an ample supply of windshield washer fluid and windshield wipers if they need replacing.

“The drivers take their time,” Murphy said. “[I tell them] there is no hurry. You get there when you get there.”

Hugh Braham, Boardman Local Schools transportation director, said this winter has been one of the most difficult for the drivers.

School mechanics come in early to start all of the buses. The district uses BP diesel supreme, which prevents the diesel from “gelling up.”

“I talk to the road department and check in with the state highway patrol,” Braham said. “Viewing the roads, personally, is the best.”

In Pennsylvania, PennDOT has granted a temporary waiver on certain restrictions on commercial drivers to allow for continued smooth delivery of salt supplies for road clearing during winter storms. “The waiver will help us and municipalities meet our respective goals,” said PennDOT Secretary Barry J. Schoch.

The waiver extends the limits on hours of service for salt delivery drivers. Drivers usually must take a mandatory rest period after 11 hours behind the wheel. Under the waiver, the limit for driving hours is extended to 14 hours.


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