Ohio pike prepares for predicted average winter

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The Ohio Turnpike’s final inspections for the coming winter were marked by a frosty Tuesday morning.

Rex Underwood, Ohio Turnpike Commission’s Eastern Division superintendent, said he thought it was fitting.

A crew from the division conducted inspections of snowplows and equipment at the Canfield maintenance building, 6896 Tippecanoe Road, that will be used on the roadway this winter.

“The guys here put in a lot of time and effort into all this,” said Chris Kalis, acting building section foreman for Canfield.

The turnpike conducts a yearly 136-point inspection on all snowplows, ensuring the vehicles’ engines, plows, beds, tires and salt distributors are up to par.

“It’s a gamut of an inspection,” Underwood said.

Every year on Oct. 16, inspections begin across the state on turnpike winter equipment. From mid-October to mid-May, turnpike snow plow drivers are split into two groups, noon to midnight and midnight to noon, and put on-call for 12 hour shifts in the event of winter weather.

“That’s time they could be spending with their family,” Kalis said. “It’s not uncommon to be out here working seven days a week.”

Underwood added that drivers can work weeks in a row.

Turnpike employees put in more than 32,000 hours last winter; the turnpike used more than 130,000 gallons of anti-icing liquids and more than 50,000 tons of road salt last winter, which are below the state average.

Underwood said he expects this winter to be a reflection of last year’s.

“It looks like it’s going to be an average winter,” he said.

Canfield’s jurisdiction, from the Pennsylvania line to the Interstates 76 and 80 junction, is the only two-lane stretch in the Turnpike’s eastern division. This means, Underwood said, that the turnpike can run four plow trucks, as opposed to the usual six used in three-lane segments.

Ten plow trucks are run out of the Canfield’s headquarters, the smallest facility in the division.

Canfield’s plow trucks are outfitted with a front plow blade, and wings on each side that fold out when necessary to guide snow into the median or guard rail.

“We do our part to take care and make a safe road for drivers, and we hope they do their part and be safe on the road,” said turnpike public information officer Brian Newbacher.

The turnpike will have an open house for people to view the winter equipment at the Canfield maintenance building from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.

The National Weather Service’s Cleveland branch has predicted that the Youngstown area will see average snowfall at around 60 inches and above average temperatures this year.

“Sixty this year seems reasonable, but local influences could have impacts that could make it greater,” meteorologist Zach Sefcovic said. A variable in greater snowfall, he said, is lake effect snow from Lake Erie.

Last year, the Youngstown area saw about 65 inches of snowfall. In last December alone, 23 inches of snow fell, making it Youngstown’s fourth-snowiest December.

The National Weather Service will release its full annual winter predictions report Thursday.

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