Significant ice, sleet and snow are expected to hit the greater Dayton area from Wednesday evening into Friday morning, creating threats to roads, air travel and power grids.
The storm will produce different impacts in different areas, with estimates ranging from 3 to 12 inches of snow (more to the north) and a tenth to a half of an inch of ice (more to the south).
“We are encouraging Ohioans to avoid any unnecessary trips during the storm to help give all of our road crews room to work,” said Gov. Mike DeWine. “For those who must travel, please be safe and take it slow.”
One of the biggest concerns is possible power outages, given the forecast for ice accumulation. When ice hits a half-inch or more, especially with wind, the chance of downed branches and transmission lines grows.
AES Ohio, the Dayton area’s electric utility, has already called for contractors to help with possible downed power lines, because staffing levels will be key, AES Ohio spokeswoman Mary Ann Kabel said.
“We are making those calls,” Kabel said. “We can see what’s coming, and we’re preparing for that.”
A 4 p.m. update from the National Weather Service put a dividing line for the storm on the north and west side of the Dayton area. NWS listed Preble, Darke, Miami and Champaign counties in the “winter storm warning” area, and other local counties in the “winter storm watch” area.
NWS said in the warning area to the north and west, rain will start mixing with freezing rain and sleet Wednesday evening before changing over to all snow by Thursday morning. Those areas are more likely to get heavier snow and light icing.
NWS said lighter snow, but more sleet and more ice is possible in the watch area, which includes Montgomery, Greene and Warren counties.
Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management Director Jeffrey Jordan urged people to stay off the roads during the storm unless it’s “a true emergency.”
The emergency management office was organizing an emergency operations center Tuesday to provide support to local jurisdictions.
“You never really know what is going to happen but we want to be prepared for the possibility of a power outage and we want to make sure we have water available if people open up shelters,” Jordan said. “We are working with the food bank to get potential resources forward deployed and available so we can deliver them if necessary.”
The Ohio Department of Transportation is getting ready as well.
“Statewide, we’re prepping for everything from heavy snow in the north, ice in the middle, and heavy rain in the south,” ODOT spokesman Matt Bruning said. “This storm system will give us a little of everything. Ice is the worst thing we have to deal with. There’s not a ton we can do with it except salt and salt and salt.”
Local residents got a jump on the storm at grocery stores Tuesday. Parking lots were packed and checkout lines were long at Kroger stores in Vandalia and northwest Dayton.
“It’s crazy in there today,” Heidi Reynolds said after exiting the Kroger on Northwoods Boulevard in Vandalia.
Toilet paper, bread, and milk were still available Tuesday afternoon, but frozen foods and prepackaged meats were getting sparse at both locations.
AES Ohio is advising customers to have emergency storm kits readily available. The company recommends an emergency radio (battery powered or solar charged), mobile device chargers, flashlights, first aid kits, non-perishable food items, water, face coverings, hand sanitizer, batteries and other necessities.
Keep freezer and refrigerator doors closed. Food will stay frozen for 36 to 48 hours in a fully loaded freezer if you keep the door closed. A half-full freezer will generally keep food frozen for 24 hours.
If the indoor temperature drops to 55 or below, open faucets slightly so they constantly drip to prevent pipes from freezing.
“Safety is just No. 1. I emphasize that all the time,” Kabel said.