Updated Mon, Jan 27, 2014 4:41 pm
More winter weather took hold of the area quickly on Saturday, causing slippery roads, challenges for the snow plows and lots of work for local emergency crews.
Athens County was among multiple area counties under a level two snow emergency on Saturday as snow that had fallen overnight covered the roads.
Vinton, Hocking, Meigs, Perry, Washington and Jackson counties were all officially under a level two emergency as well, meaning drivers were recommended to stay off the roads unless travel was necessary.
“(The Ohio Department of Transportation) is out, the secondary roads are bad but the county (plows) are out, too,” said Sheriff Patrick Kelly.
“I would encourage people to drive to their abilities.”
Snow plows began work at about 8 a.m., while snow still piled up on the roads.
As of noon Saturday, county plows and dump trucks carrying salt were out on the roads working on the second plowing of the day.
“Our priority is to hit the most travelled roads and the main arterial roads, going out from there,” said Athens County Engineer Jeff Maiden. “What we’re doing right now is mostly plowing, not treating the roads with salt.”
The trucks had 16 routes to travel on Saturday, a new system of road travel that was just created this year.
This season has been rough for the county in terms of salt usage, Maiden said, and the county requested another 800 tons of salt Saturday morning.
Reports that the Ohio Department of Transportation has put out a request for an emergency contract for more salt were unverified, but Maiden said the county already received an order for 400 more tons of salt.
So far this winter, Athens County has ordered 1,300 tons of salt on top of reserves left from last year. The shortage was not going to affect this weekend’s snow, though, Maiden said.
“As the snow starts to stop we’re going to go with salt and...gravel,” Maiden said.
The Ohio Department of Transportation, District 10, which encompasses the Southeast Ohio area, said in a news release that it has used nearly 37,000 tons of salt this winter.
More than 110 snowplows were in Southeast Ohio beginning at midnight Saturday, according to the department release, and drivers would be working 12 hours shifts and rotating to new crews as the weekend continued.
Law enforcement said most of the work was pulling drivers out of ditches and minor wrecks throughout the county. Agencies didn’t have concrete statistics on the numbers of minor crashes on Saturday, but said the patrols were largely helping get people back on the roads.
“Luckily it’s the weekend, so people aren’t out on the roads like they would be (during the week),” said Sgt. Thomas Holbert of the Athens post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
For those that must drive in the weather, Holbert said extreme caution should be used.
“Leave more room than you’d ever dream about between the cars around you,” Holbert said
Since law enforcement were patrolling the roads constantly Saturday, Holbert said those with minor crashes and who had slid off the road should seek help themselves when they can.
A driver can call a wrecker service without needing to have a highway patrol member there, Holbert said.
“But it would be nice for them to call and let us know they are being helped so we know that if we get other calls about the same vehicle,” Holbert said.
More snow is forecasted for through Sunday morning, according to local weather reports.
Kelly said the level two emergency would likely remain in effect for Athens County through Sunday, but did not think a level three was on the way.
“The only way I would go to level three is if we had a major ice storm like we did years ago,” Kelly said.
“Whether I put out a level or not shouldn’t determine how people drive in this weather.”