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01-27-04: Area drivers take on icy roadways

Grand Lake residents can use weather phone line or Web site for info on treacherous conditions


How are the roads in Dayton? How fast can I travel going in to work? Will the roads be clear tomorrow?
These questions from callers — and even more ridiculous ones — can keep local emergency dispatchers frustrated and distracted from their first priority: Getting help to those in trouble.
“The dispatch center gets to be like a radio show call-in sometimes. The phone just keeps ringing off the wall some days with people asking us whether it’s safe to drive or how fast they should go,” said Lt. Dan Lay of the Wapakoneta post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP).
Lay said troopers and OSHP dispatchers won’t tell people whether they should hit the roads or not. That’s up to each motorist and his own circumstances, he said. Rarely are roadways ever closed unless there’s an accident, so people have to use common sense.
“If it’s snowing out, it’s likely roads are hazardous. You have to use your own judgment. Is it necessary, really necessary to go out? If not, stay home,” he said.
The OSHP has a Road and Weather Line where motorists can call to find out road conditions in any county in Ohio. The number is 888-264-7623.
County 911 dispatchers also get plagued with calls from people who want road conditions for places not even in the local area. They try to be courteous, but in the heat of an emergency when an ambulance, fire truck and other rescue crews need to be summoned first, it’s difficult.
“I’ve had people ask me what the road conditions are in another state, even Florida,” said Lori Yaney, a 911 dispatcher for Mercer County. “It’s extremely frustrating.”
Yaney said she “bites her tongue” and frequently lets out steam after she gets off the phone. Dispatchers will, however, try to help by giving a brief description of local roadways if they have time, she said.
The problem is magnified when several phone lines are ringing and dispatchers don’t know which ones are “real” emergencies and which callers just want a weather report.
“It creates a real stress for the dispatchers, and really, their first job is to maintain that lifeline to officers who are already out there helping people on those roads,” Lay said.
For those with Internet access, www.Buckeyetraffic.org is a good, all-around source for Ohio road and weather conditions. The site features the Ohio Transportation Information System (OTIS), which gives locations for all types of road activity such as construction zones, closures and lane restrictions and weather-related obstacles.
Buckeyetraffic, a product of the Ohio Department of Transportation, also features RWIS, Road and Weather Information System, which gives air and surface temperature, precipitation, wind data and visibility outlook via road sensors placed along major highways around the state. Viewers are asked to choose the county of their choice before receiving data.
One of four road sensors in Auglaize County this morning measured traffic speed on southbound I-75 at 56 mph. The speed is posted at 65 mph.
The Web site also offers views from Web cameras around Ohio. For further weather information, check out the National Weather Service Web site at nws.noaa.gov.


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