Friday, January 01, 1999

Snow storm blowing our way

Treacherous ice may join mix this weekend

The Cincinnati Enquirer

John Wilson and son, Philip, 5, slide down a hill at Rapid Run Park in Price Hill Thursday after the season's first snowfall overnight.
(Ernest Coleman photo)

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        A brutal ice and snow storm is headed toward the Tristate this weekend, putting road crews on alert and sending some residents scurrying to stores for cold-weather staples.

        Forecasters are expecting snow to develop tonight, continuing Saturday, possibly combining with sleet and freezing rain. The snow would return Saturday night.

        “It looks like it could get very difficult to travel,” said Mark Tobin, a meteorologist with Accu-Weather Inc.

        The region can expect several inches of snow throughout the storm, probably more than Thursday's snowfall of 2 to 3 inches.

        The storm, which developed over Texas and is headed toward the Great Lakes, is “very potent,” with strong winds and a lot of moisture, said meteorologist Allen Randall of the National Weather Service.

        As it moves into the Midwest, it could dump as much as a foot of snow to the west of Cincinnati, in St. Louis and Indianapolis, Mr. Randall said.

McDowell siblings - Jasmine, 4, Nathan, 7, and Lashauna, 10 - make snow angels in Washington Park in Over-The-Rhine.
(Tony Jones photo)

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        Forecasters think the Queen City will get a mixture of snow and rain, which could make for treacherous driving. Three to 4 inches of snow could fall before turning to freezing rain Saturday. And a couple of more inches of snow could fall Saturday night.

        Significant snow and ice accumulation is possible, which raises concerns about downed tree limbs and power lines, he added.

        Today will be cold but calm, with snowfall starting in the region tonight, he said.

        During daylight Saturday, temperatures are expected to top freezing, giving the region a mix of freezing rain and sleet, Mr. Tobin said. As the temperatures drop at night, the rain will turn to snow — and slick roadways could freeze over.

        “We are getting ready to go,” said Diane Watkins, supervisor of highway maintenance for Cincinnati. Road crews already were preparing their snow plows and salt spreaders in preparation for the storm.

A cardinal finds some refuge from the snow at Miami Whitewater Forest.
(Ernest Coleman photo)

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        Ms. Watkins relies on tips from numerous callers — as well as five weather stations throughout the city and road way temperature sensors — to keep up on weather conditions amid a storm. Her crew of 100 workers is on-call through the weekend. And a fleet of 65 salt trucks/snow plows is ready to roll.

        By Thursday afternoon, residents were already laying in supplies in anticipation of the storm.

        In Cincinnati's Northside neighborhood, Ace Hardware and Electric Co. was selling plenty of snow shovels, ice scrapers and other cold-weather staples.

        “We were real busy,” said William Dickhaus, the store's owner. People were buying up everything from road salt to sleds for children, he said.

        At other stores, boots, hats and gloves were going rapidly.

        “They know it's coming,” said Kimberly Patt, a department manager at the Milford-area Kmart store on Ohio 28.

        The store was crowded Thursday as customers stocked up on gloves and other winter gear, she said. After weeks of a mild winter, people are just now getting around to stocking up, she said.

Jim Harjo cleans the sidewalk in front of Annunciation Church in Clifton.
(Glenn Hartong photo)

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        Thursday's snow triggered a few accidents, including one involving a tour bus and a van on the Jeremiah Morrow Bridge along Interstate 71 in Warren County. Three people were treated and released from Bethesda Warren for minor injuries.

        A Covington man was injured when his vehicle struck a guardrail and overturned on Interstate 75 near Middletown. Police said there were patches of ice and snow on the highway. Ray L. Westenhofer, 44, was in serious condition Thursday at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio.

        The winter blast that started the last days of December capped a year of extremes in Cincinnati. The spring brought some of the region's wettest months on record. The summer followed with a dry spell, hurting local crops. And the winter had been un seasonably warm, until the last days of the year.

        It's a pattern felt across the country. The year was the hottest on record, according to the World Meteorological Organization and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Scientists blame global warming, and El Nino, which has been replaced by La Nina.

        Enquirer wire services and reporters Sheila McLaughlin and Richelle Thompson contributed to this story. Weather Page
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