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Frightful weather

First snowstorm of season blankets area

December 20, 2009
By DAVE GOSSETT Staff writer and SUMMER WALLACE-MINGER Special to the Herald Star

STEUBENVILLE - A fatigued Bob Baird was working the phones Saturday evening trying to put together another crew of snow plow drivers for the latest batch of snow.

"Everyone is tired and hungry but these guys are always ready to answer the bell. They do an excellent job under very stressful and tiring conditions. And Tom Fuller, the department foreman, coordinates everyone and all of the street coverage," cited Baird, superintendent for Steubenville's Refuse/Streets/Electrical departments.

Baird said most of the snow plow drivers were allowed to go home Saturday when the snow started falling again shortly before dusk.

Article Photos

A WINTRY BLAST — Bob Lane of Steubenville shovels snow from his driveway for the third time Saturday. Lane said it was an ongoing battle with the snow that blanketed the area. -- Dave Gossett

"We had 10 plows operating through Friday night and then reduced that to four drivers during the day Saturday. When we started getting more snow late Saturday afternoon we brought guys back out to clean up our streets again. But we are hoping this ends soon. We have been checking the radar and Internet sites, and we should be coming to an end soon. At least I hope so," said Baird.

That was the sentiment throughout the Ohio Valley as the first real snowstorm of the winter season moved out of the region.

Bob Reed, a meterologist with the National Weather Service in Moon Township, said the snow will cease for today but temperatures will remain below normal until mid-week.

"It looks like the Jefferson, Brooke and Hancock counties probably received between three to five inches of snow from this system," according to Reed.

"There is a chance of measurable snow on Monday but that will be little if any accumulation. We will get a break on Tuesday and Wednesday and by Thursday temperatures will be in the upper 30s and that could mean some mixed weather Thursday night and into Friday. We may see some rain, freezing rain and snow depending on those temperatures," Reed predicted.

The Ohio Department of Transportation garage in Wintersville had 12 trucks treating state roads from late Friday through the early hours today.

Tom Corey, superintendent of the local garage, said there were no major issues for his drivers but noted, "bridges and overpasses were refreezing Saturday night as the temperatures dropped below the freezing mark."

"We are urging people to stay at home if possible and to use caution when driving," said Corey.

Gov. Joe Manchin declared a state of emergency for the entire state of West Virginia Saturday and activated the National Guard after a winter storm dumped nearly 30 inches of snow in the state's higher elevations, left hundreds of motorists stranded and more than 166,000 homes and businesses without electricity.

In Hancock County West Virginia Division of Highways Administrator Sam DeCapio said his snowplow drivers "were sitting in their trucks Friday night as we waited for the storm to arrive in our county."

"We had all of our main roads treated and plowed and were starting on the back roads when the snow started falling again late Saturday. So we went back to treating our main roads. We will continue to run our plows until we get everything cleaned up," said DeCapio.

"This is what we do. It's part of our job. We prepare throughout the year for the winter season, and we are prepared," added DeCapio.

The state of emergency didn't keep drivers off the roads in Brooke County where acting county administrator Chip Kirchner had eight snow plows and salt trucks working around the clock.

Weirton City Public Works crews worked around the clock since late Friday to keep the roads clear, according to Tom Williams, street department foreman.

"Crews initially began plowing around 11 p.m. Friday evening and the night turn continued until 7 a.m. Saturday, when the day shift came on. Crews have been plowing and salting the roads, because, although the snow has been steady, it has been light enough to allow crews to salt the roads," Williams said.

"On the hills, especially, the crews have to salt, just for their own safety," he added.

Crews concentrated on the primary routes throughout Friday night and Saturday morning, turning to secondary routes and alleys by Saturday afternoon, he said.

"By 5 p.m. Saturday afternoon, approximately 90 percent of the city was clear of snow, he estimated. Another crew was scheduled to come on by 7 p.m. Saturday to monitor the roads throughout the night and keep them clear. Their primary duties will be checking on the roads and keep them from freezing," Williams said.

The Hancock County dispatch reported that there had been several accidents, but mostly minor fender-benders, with cars going into ditches, curbs and guardrails.

However, as the state of emergency called by the governor remained in effect, residents were cautioned to stay at home until it was lifted.

The city of Weirton Fire Department was prepared for the weather, according to Lt. Alex Gryskevich.

The city's fire trucks are equipped with automatic chains, which descend and wrap around the wheels at the flip of a switch.

Also, like most passenger vehicles, the fire trucks have traction control and all-brake systems. The fire department also carries salt on their trucks, in case they get in a tight spot.

"We'll still be responding, although not as fast," said Gryskevich. "We have to be cautious, just like any other driver."

Local law enforcement officials said a number of weather related accidents had been reported but no serious injuries.

(Gossett can be contacted at Minger-Wallace can be contacted at

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