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Published: Wednesday, 2/20/2013

Perrysburg, Maumee officials caught 'by surprise' when squall left up to 5 inches of snow in places

Meteorologist: "I've been here 14 years, and I've never seen a band hold together like this."

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The reactions at the city public-service offices when snow began falling this morning in Maumee and Perrysburg were similar.

At first, it looked like any of the other brief snow squalls that had passed through northwest Ohio in recent days, riding brisk northwesterly to westerly winds carrying moisture all the way from Lake Michigan.

But this one just wouldn't quit. And by the time it was over, parts of Perrysburg had up to 5 inches of snow, and three in Maumee.

"It was a little unexpected, to say the least -- it did kind of catch us by surprise," said Greg Kuhr, Perrysburg's superintendent of lands and sanitation. When it started, there was no reason to believe it would be different, "but then we threw everything we had at it."

"Everyone was just scratching their heads," said Joe Camp, Maumee's public service director, noting that forecasts had called for nothing more than a dusting to maybe half an inch.

But within a half-hour of its start, it was clear this was no ordinary squall, he said, with truck drivers reporting white-out conditions with visibilities of an eighth of a mile or less.

"It was one of those things. I think it caught everyone off-guard," Mr. Camp said.

Well, maybe not the Ohio Department of Transportation -- at least, not so according to its spokesman in Bowling Green, Theresa Pollick, who said salt-and-plow drivers were on patrol throughout northwest Ohio as a precaution against the recurring squalls, and thus were on-duty to respond when the heavier snow fell in Maumee and Perrysburg.

"Since we cover such a big area, we have to be on the cautious side," Ms. Pollick said. The biggest traffic problems, she added, tend to involve people who unexpectedly drive from an area of no snow into one with heavy snow and poor visibility.

Jay Berschback, chief meteorologist for WTVG-TV Channel 13, said the squall was a lake-effect spawn from Lake Michigan, about 10 miles wide, that had traveled south into the region from Michigan overnight. It left dustings along its path before it stalled over the southern part of the Toledo area around sunrise.

"It came down so fast, and so fluffy" that accumulation was rapid, Mr. Berschback said, and the atmospheric conditions were just right for it to keep producing light snow all day -- tapping Lake Michigan, several hundred miles away, for moisture.

"I've been here 14 years, and I've never seen a band hold together like this," he said.

Ms. Pollick, who was a meteorologist before joining the transportation department, agreed that the squall was "an exceptional event."

Mr. Kuhr said the heaviest snow fell in northwest Perrysburg, near the Maumee River -- and roughly across the river from where Mr. Camp said Maumee got the most.

But the eastern part of Perrysburg got maybe an inch, Mr. Kuhr said, while to the north, in Rossford and South Toledo, the ground barely turned white.

The heavier-than-expected snow prompted ODOT to postpone some bridge repairs that had been planned this morning along I-75 between Detroit and Central avenues in Toledo. That work now is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today, with intermittent lane closings and a shutdown of the Detroit entrance to northbound I-75 expected.

Contact David Patch at: dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.


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