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Digging out: Winter storm wallops Valley

Paul Chamberlain, 8, of Salem, proudly shovels snow into a pile to play in after helping his dad clear the driveway Monday afternoon. Staff photo / Lily Nickel

Travels should be easier this morning following a heavy 24 hours of digging out.

The first major winter storm of the season put a direct hit on the Mahoning Valley overnight Monday as more than a foot of snow fell on many communities, with some northern Trumbull County areas registering as much as 15 to 18 inches.

The storm closed many businesses and other services and would have closed schools and other governmental entities if it hadn’t been for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Monday.

Many Valley schools and businesses remain shuttered today.

The National Weather Service about 1 p.m. Monday showed that accumulating snow had ended, but blowing and drifting snow was still a possibility for the area for the rest of Monday, and lake effect snow was a worry in snow belt communities.

The NWS reported there were five inches of snowfall at midnight Monday at the Youngstown Warren Regional Airport with an additional 6.9 inches reported by 5 p.m. Monday bringing the monthly total to 13.9 inches and 16 inches for the season.

CHALLENGE

Youngstown plow drivers had “quite the challenge” in cleaning the city’s streets “24/7” since 6 p.m. Sunday, said Kevin Flinn, Youngstown buildings and roads commissioner.

“Since 6 p.m. Sunday, we’ve had 13 trucks out trying to make some progress,” he said. “We’re working the mains and expressways and currently still are,” he said at 3 p.m. Monday. “We are hoping to get into the side streets later this evening.”

He said the city will continue to have 13 trucks operating continuously “until we have been able to hit every street and make every street passable in the city.”

He said the blowing and drifting has made conditions more challenging. “The first challenge was opening up the roads, and now we’re trying to push back the intersections,” he said.

“There’s been cars abandoned throughout the city, so we’ve been having tow working around those also,” he said. Most are cars that just got stuck while traveling on the streets “just because of the depth of the accumulations,” he said.

Before the city plowed, “If you didn’t have four-wheel drive, you’re going to struggle,” he said. “We got downtown opened up. I think we are about 75 percent done with the mains,” and the side streets are next “If we don’t get anymore snow,” he said at 3 p.m.

Flinn said his foreman reported that there was still a normal amount of vehicle traffic until about midnight Sunday. “But after midnight and today (Monday) it’s been slow volume. It was a plus for us that it was a holiday.”

Flinn estimated that the city received “at least 12 inches” of snow. I think there was some sleet because under the snow it is slippery,” he said. “It is a heavy packed snow, so that’s what is slowing us down.”

MANY HOURS

Mahoning County Engineer Pat Ginnetti said county plow drivers started at 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

“It was difficult this morning,” he said on Monday “We started Sunday at 6:30 p.m. Sunday and ran until about 11, then came back out at 4 a.m. this morning. It was snowing the whole time,” he said.

“By the time they finished the route, they had to redo them. We’re actually still out. They’ve been running 11 hours already,” he said at 3 p.m. Monday.

“It was challenging because it was drifting, and there was a lot of snow coming down as fast as we were taking it off the road,” he said. Ginnetti believes the county got 12 inches of snow, even more in some areas.

“I know in my driveway it was pretty deep, but we’re also going to come back out at 3 a.m. and start over just to make sure we got all of the roads done before the morning commute,” he said of Tuesday.

Ginnetti said he believes crews had cleared all of their roads, some multiple times as of 3 p.m. Monday. He said his plow drivers were out longer than normal this time.

He thinks this storm was bigger than anything the department faced last year. “I think two years ago, we had a storm like this where one day we had like a foot” of snow, he said.

Ginnetti was out checking county roads at about 3 p.m. Monday. “They look OK out where I’m at,” he said. “This was more than I thought. They were saying initially between five and 10,” inches. “I think we got more than that.”

He said the kind of snow that fell Sunday night and Monday morning is “better than freezing rain. I was getting a little worried Sunday night. It seemed like it was a freezing rain. I didn’t know how hard it was going to come down. This (deep snow) is obviously a major inconvenience and hard to navigate when it’s coming down faster than we can get it off of the roads, but it’s better than freezing rain,” he said.

“Ice is the hardest thing to manage. Snow takes time, but at least you can get it off of the roads. Today it was most powder.” However, Ginnetti added, “I’m sure a lot of mailboxes took a beating from this.”

As for today, Ginnetti said he “hopes the worst is over. Right now it seems pretty good.”

Trumbull County 911 reported a 26-year-old Vienna man who had walked out of his Smith Stewart Road house into the snowstorm shortly after 6 a.m. Monday was found safe by township police about two hours later at a nearby Sodom Hutchings Road.

Authorities had been trying to get area police dogs to help with the search, the 911 center reported, but because of the storm that tasks had been difficult. Drones from Mahoning County sheriff and Austintown police had been activated to help with the search.

OUTLOOK

The Western Reserve Transit Authority had canceled all its routes for Monday due to the storm and impassable roads.

WRTA officials said the transportation company is expected to resume service today.

Republic Services announced all Monday trash collection routes in Mahoning and Columbiana counties were suspended, with services expected to resume today on a one-day delay, depending on the severity of the storm.

The NWS is forecasting colder days this week with less snow. Today is expected to be cloudy with a high near 30. Wednesday’s high is near 40 with a 40 percent chance of snow. Thursday and Friday are to be highs in the lower 20s with cloudy skies and lows near zero. Saturday is high in mid 20s with partly sunny skies.

Many parking bans in area communities have remained in effect until further notice or have been extended from its original deadline.

Due to dangerous or impassable road conditions caused by inclement weather, many of our our newspaper deliveries have been delayed today.

The newspaper asks our customers to be patient while we work to get your newspaper delivered.

Any newspapers that are not able to be delivered today will be brought to our subscribers after the roads are cleared.

Reporters Bob Coupland, Ed Runyan, Guy Vogrin and Allie Vugrincic contributed to this report.

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