Winter wipeout

Frigid winds, snow blast area.
Tom Jackson
Jan 26, 2014
How bad was the winter weather Saturday? It was too polar for the Sandusky Freezin’ for a Reason Polar Plunge.

A winter storm blew into the Sandusky area overnight Saturday, forcing a raft of cancellations, including the planned Polar Plunge at the Thirsty Pony.    The weather also likely contributed to an accident that tied up traffic on the Ohio Turnpike in Erie County for hours Saturday. Snow emergencies were declared in all local counties, with more snow forecast for today and Monday.

The Freezin’ For A Reason Polar Plunge, a charity that raises money for Special Olympics using volunteers who jump into icy water, called off its Saturday event in Sandusky after organizers learned Huron County had declared a Level 3 snow emergency, closing all roadways to nonemergency traffic.

“We just didn’t think it was a responsible choice to have the event today,” said Kate Burdett, marketing and development manager for Special Olympics — Ohio. “We just wanted to make sure that all of our participants and supporters were as safe as possible”

The event is now scheduled for March 8 at the Thirsty Pony.

A crash at 9:49 a.m. Saturday in Oxford Township closed all three westbound lanes of the Ohio Turnpike and left traffic snarled for hours, the Ohio Highway Patrol said.

The patrol said a semitrailer driven by Sergii Prysiazhniuk, 25, Parma, was in the center lane at the 116 mile post when he approached several other vehicles, which had slowed or stopped because of a previous accident. He did not have enough distance to stop and hit another semi driven by Michael Rudie, 57, Waldo, Wisc. Rudie’s truck hit the semi in front of him, while his trailer slid into the path of yet another semi, causing it to crash, too. Meanwhile, Prysiazhniuk’s trailer slid to the left and hit a pickup truck.

The patrol said several other crashes also occurred as other drivers tried and failed to avoid the mess in front of them.

Prysiazhniuk’s truck finally stopped with the trailer sitting on a concrete median and the tractor facing east. The other vehicles, also disabled, blocked all three lanes.

Traffic was stopped until 12:21 p.m., when the north berm was opened and vehicles were allowed to pass. The highway remained closed for cleanup, and the three lanes of the highway weren’t opened up again until 2:29 p.m.

Prysiazhniuk, the only person injured in the accident, was taken to Firelands Regional Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries. A hospital official said Saturday night Prysiazhniuk was in stable condition. Troopers blamed Prysiazhniuk for the crash and cited him for following too close.

Local counties declared snow emergencies after the storm swept in.

Erie County Sheriff Paul Sigsworth declared a Level 2 snow emergency (stay off the roadways unless absolutely necessary) at 11:30 p.m. Friday, downgrading that to a Level 1 emergency (roadways hazardous, drive cautiously) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

“Most accidents that we’ve had have been vehicles sliding on the roadway,” said chief deputy Jared Oliver of the Erie County Sheriff’s Office.

Blowing and drifting snow has been a problem, although the wind was finally starting to calm down on Saturday night, he said.

Huron County Sheriff Dane Howard declared a Level 3 snow emergency on Saturday, when only emergency personnel are allowed on roadyways. The sheriff said throughout the night, his deputies helped eight motorists who became stuck in the snow and several crashes were reported. The sheriff downgraded the emergency to Level 2 early Saturday afternoon.

Level 2 snow emergencies remained in effect Saturday night in Huron, Ottawa and Sandusky counties.

Snow and cold apparently will rule for several more days.

The National Weather Service’s Cleveland office forecast a 100 percent chance of snow today, with a 70 percent chance Monday.

As for temperatures, forecasters are predicting a high of 28 degrees today. Today will be warm compared to Monday, which will have a high of 13 and a Monday night low of minus 10 degrees below zero. Bundle up Tuesday — the high will be minus 1 degree, while the low Tuesday night will be minus 9 degrees.