A whopper snowstorm could be targeting northwest Ohio this weekend, and Fulton County police agencies are reminding residents of their impending responsibilities.
Up to six inches of snow is predicted for Saturday, so Wauseon citizens should prepare to clear their sidewalks within 24 hours of the deluge, Police Chief Keith Torbet said. That’s according to a city ordinance which will be enforced, he said.
If two or more inches of the fluff falls it’s time to clear vehicles from city streets. All parking on streets is prohibited until city crews can clear them.
As for snow emergencies, Wauseon has its own protocol, different from the county’s, Torbet said. A Level 1 emergency will last until municipal streets and lots are cleared, which can take 12 to 24 hours. Level 2 means city snow plow operators find it difficult to keep ahead of the snowfall; drivers should stay off streets unless it’s absolutely necessary. During a Level 3, drivers must stay off the streets, with the exceptions of essential personnel and absolute emergencies. Anyone else on the road is subject to arrest and an approximately $150 fine.
“If we call a Level 3 here we need you to get off the road so we can get a handle on it,” Torbet said. “Basically, you’re driving on a closed roadway.”
He said motorists city police have stopped on the road during the height of precarious winter storms have used such excuses as running out of milk at home.
When driving in snow is possible, Torbet advises people to take their time.
“Be cognizant that the weather conditions can change from the city to outside in the county. Make sure you give yourself extra time so you don’t have to be in a hurry,” he said.
Delta Administrator Brad Peebles sets snow emergency levels for the village, but basically goes by the county’s rules. A village ordinance states an emergency exists following a snow accumulation of two or more inches. No parking is permitted on village streets for the next 24 hours or until snow is cleared. Vehicles remaining on the street are subject to being towed at the owner’s expense.
Police Chief Nathan Hartsock said a Level 3 emergency in Delta means cruising around during it is a minor misdemeanor offense that can cost the driver an arrest and a $150 fine. The charge is operation on a closed roadway.
Remarkably, Hartsock said, each winter the police department receives calls from residents asking for permission to drive in Level 3 conditions. Often, the reasoning is that they can’t miss work.
“I can’t give somebody permission to break the law. You need to make that determination and risk getting a citation,” Hartsock said.
Sidewalks must be cleared by residents within 36 hours of a snowfall or they chance a minor misdemeanor charge.
Swanton Police Chief Adam Berg noted a fine up to $100 if sidewalks aren’t cleared within 24 hours of snow accumulation. If village crews are forced to clear a sidewalk the resident will be charged for the work.
To his knowledge, however, people are generally mindful of their responsibility and no one has been cited. “Usually, we give them a courtesy visit” if the snow isn’t cleared, Berg said.
Swanton residents who shovel their sidewalks and throw the snow onto the road can receive a court date and a fine of up to $100. The chief said the village doesn’t have a current ordinance against throwing snow onto the road, but can probably use an old ordinance prohibiting the encumbrance of sidewalks and roadways. The village can also charge people under a statute in the Ohio Revised Code.
But, “Usually, we just let the resident know they can’t do it,” Berg said.
He said many residents probably aren’t aware the village doesn’t enforce snow emergency levels within its limits. As a rule, they usually follow the county’s lead.
“It’s a good rule of thumb,” Berg said. He emphasized his point by citing three accidents in the village during a snowfall last weekend, when emergency levels weren’t even issued in Fulton County.
His advice to Swanton residents finding themselves in snowy circumstances: “Use common sense.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.