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12-09-05 Snow and wind snarl local traffic

By Shelley Grieshop

  The Grand Lake area was digging out this morning from 612 inches of snow that started falling Thursday afternoon and kept snow plow and wrecker crews busy overnight.

  Blowing snow with gusts recorded as high as 48 mph created white-out conditions for motorists late Thursday night. Although light snow is expected to continue through the weekend, no major accumulations are expected.

  The over-night storm caused all area schools to cancel classes today and some area businesses to close. Many roads remained treacherous this morning as dispatchers sent law enforcement officers in every direction to help motorists who slid off the roadways or into each other.

  "Seems like the most accidents we've had occurred on I-75," reported Caroline Zenz, a dispatcher at the Auglaize County Sheriff's Department. "Some people think they can drive as fast as they do in the summer. They just don't use their brains."

  The Wapakoneta post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol also were kept busy throughout the night. Dispatchers working the night shift typically receive less than 10 calls. But from 11 p.m. Thursday until 7 a.m. today, 133 calls came in for various snow-related incidents, the OSHP reported.  Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey opted not to issue a snow emergency level for the county which basically warns motorists of the degree of hazard on the roadways. However, deputies weren't sitting still; about 34 accidents were investigated overnight, as well as calls reporting 18 disabled vehicles in the county, dispatchers said.

  Thankfully, no serious accidents or incidents were reported in either Mercer or Auglaize counties, officials said.

  Steve Zehringer, manager of the Mercer County outpost of the Ohio Department of Transportation, said this morning that 16 state trucks began shoveling and dropping a sand/salt mix at 3 p.m. Thursday, working through the night and continuing this morning.

  "We'll be working until the job's done," Zehringer said.

  If local residents think this storm was wicked, our neighboring Hoosiers fared worse. Fort Wayne, Ind., received 10 inches of the white stuff overnight, according to Meteorologist Mike Ryan of the National Weather Service.

  "The heaviest snow actually fell through East Central Indiana and Ohio, which of course does includes your area," Ryan said this morning. "Sorry about your luck. But don't forget, there's still about three more months worth of winter left."


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