VINDICATOR STAFF REPORT
Most schoolchildren in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties got the day off Monday — thanks to subfreezing temperatures and falling snow that combined for icy streets and roads.
They won’t have to make it up.
Ohio public schools are required to build five “calamity” days into their schedules, and being closed because of snow falls under that category.
All public and most private schools in Mahoning and Trumbull counties canceled classes Monday, while in Columbiana County, the only public schools to open were East Liverpool, Lisbon, Salem, Southern and Wellsville. All five ran on a two-hour delay.
All Youngstown diocesan schools in the tri-county area were also closed Monday.
Schools in Lawrence and Mercer counties in Pennsylvania had a two-hour delay Monday morning but went on as usual when pupils arrived midmorning.
Between 12:01 a.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Monday, 8.5 inches of snow fell on the Mahoning Valley, according to the National Weather Service.
The weather service is not expecting any snow today and predicts it will be dry.
As of 1 p.m. Monday, 22.1 inches of snow had fallen on the Valley in December. That makes this month already the fourth-snowiest December in the area’s recorded weather history, which dates to 1943.
The area is only 0.3 inch of snow from tying the third-snowiest December, 22.4 inches in 1962.
The snowiest December was in 1987 when 29.5 inches of snow fell.
A major trouble spot at the beginning of the storm was on U.S. Route 224 in Boardman, where traffic was backed up near Southern Park Mall at the height of the Christmas shopping season shortly after the storm began Saturday afternoon. Boardman police reported 30 accidents between 3 and 3:30 p.m. that day.
“It was a no-win situation for everyone involved,” said Pat Kennard, an Ohio Department of Transportation public information officer. One eastbound ODOT truck that was stalled in the traffic jam on Route 224 took several hours to reach the Pennsylvania line, she said.
If such a traffic jam in a snowstorm is repeated, ODOT recommends that Boardman Township officials use the media to advise the public to avoid the area, Kennard said.
ODOT trucks went out at 1 p.m. Saturday and the snow started between 2:30 and 2:45 p.m., Kennard said, adding that 16 ODOT trucks were salting as needed in Mahoning County.
Mahoning County’s two on-duty 911 emergency dispatchers “were immensely busy,” taking 26 weather-related calls between 3 and 6 p.m. Saturday, said Clark Jones, interim county emergency management director. Jackson and Milton townships and Craig Beach police “were all backed up with accidents” and vehicles off the road in that time period, he said.
“Perhaps the most difficult challenge was keeping up with all the 911 calls that came in via cellular phones,” he said. The county experienced “a high volume of fender-bender style accidents” but no serious accidents in the heavy snowfall that began one hour earlier than predicted Saturday, he said.
During the weekend, Trumbull County engineer’s office had 26 trucks out three times.
John Dean, highway superintendent, said 150 pounds of salt and a like amount of slag were spread during each run. The department has enough slag and salt for another three or four applications.
The department can be resupplied within a day or two of reordering, Dean said.
He noted that county trucks were out twice at this time last year, compared with 10 times so far this winter.
The Rescue Mission of Mahoning Valley had a “little more walk-in traffic” Sunday but not something that could not be accommodated, said the Rev. David Sherrard, executive director.
The Rev. Mr. Sherrard said the Rescue Mission, which is the only 24-hour shelter in the area, has 140 sleeping spaces, including a 54-bed dormitory for single men.
Because the storm was predicted, he said most people needing shelter made arrangements with friends or family or the mission before it hit.
In Trumbull County, the primary shelter has a lot of room for those in need of a bed and food.
Joseph Spera, a resident monitor at the Warren Family Mission on Elm Road, said that although 40 beds are in use in the Elm Road dormitory and eight in an additional room, the gymnasium that holds 50 more people hasn’t been used yet.
“We have plenty of room,” Spera said, noting that the mission goes out at night looking for those who need a bed.
A spokeswoman for Help Hotline, a telephone crisis center, said only one call for shelter was received Monday.