Local officials discouraged drivers from braving the wintry roads, but when the snow swept in shortly after 4 p.m., many residents were just setting out — or about to set out — for the treacherous commute home.
“The phones were going nonstop. This hit very quick and very heavy” Erie County Sheriff Paul Sigsworth said.
Just after the storm hit, a Huron Schools bus became lodged in the snow on River Road. The lone student onboard made it home safe and sound, but for others the mayhem was just beginning.
“The roads got slick so quick that a lot of cars were getting stuck on hills before we got salt out to them,” Sigsworth said.
At about 5:30 p.m., county officials issued a Level 2 winter road condition advisory, asking drivers to venture out only if they felt it absolutely necessary.
Around the same time, the number of reported traffic crashes began to decline — Sigsworth guessed those who made it home from work were opting to stay put.
Huron County officials contended with similar conditions.
“I couldn’t even tell you, and I can’t talk for long — I’m about to head out to another one,” said one trooper at the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s Norwalk post, when asked about the number of crashes he handled Friday.
Bombarded with fender benders and cars in ditches, area officers, deputies and troopers had little time to wrap up one incident before heading out to another.
Perkins police responded to at least 10 calls involving disabled vehicles or minor crashes, Perkins police Officer Martin Curran said. Most of the cars sustained minor damage, although one person involved in a Galloway Road crash required medical care,Curran said.
“We’ll stay at a Level 2 for the time being because the wind’s picking up and we’re starting to get drifting” Sigsworth said at about 7:30 p.m.
Rural roads will likely see the worst of that drifting, as westerly winds between 15 and 30 mph were expected overnight, said Brian Mitchell, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Cleveland.
Today’s temperatures will reach about 20 degrees, according to Mitchell.
“But it’s still going to be windy, keeping wind chills down around zero,” Mitchell said.
Officials will continue to monitor road conditions and re-evaluate advisory levels throughout the day, Sigsworth said.
At about 9:30 p.m., Groton Township firefighters were dispatched to the Ohio Turnpike, where Highway Patrol troopers were handling a crash involving a double-decker bus and a U-Haul.
Dispatchers said about 10 people sustained minor injuries in the crash.