Region braces for complicated winter weather: ‘This storm is different’

A winter storm last weekend may have set a daily snowfall record, but the weather system the region braces to endure over the next three days will prove more trying, officials said.

The storm rolling in Saturday morning and lasting through the evening promises to batter parts of southwest Ohio with up to 10 inches of blowing snow on the heels of a freezing rain that could leave homes in some areas without power just before punishing subzero temperatures set in Monday.

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“Last weekend it was much warmer. It was in the 30s. The snow was heavy and wet, and that wasn’t necessarily an issue in regard to power delivery,” said Mary Ann Kabel, director of corporate communications for Dayton Power & Light. “This storm is different.”

Kabel characterized as “complicated” the incoming storm system with the potential for the weight of freezing rain to bring down tree limbs buffeted by up to 40-mph gusts on service lines across the company’s 24-county service area.

“The wind and accumulation of a significant amount of ice – a fourth of an inch or more – on lines could be an issue,” Kabel said.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for the entire region beginning at 4 a.m. Saturday.

McCall Vrydaghs, Storm Center 7 chief meteorologist, said the western-most counties will see the first effects of the storm between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. Snow will predominate north of Interstate 70. A “mix line,” a combination of snow and freezing rain, will set up south of the interstate and move farther in that direction later in the day.

“As we get into the afternoon, cold air is going to start coming in from the north, and we will slowly watch that line nudge southward and really ramp-up the snowfall, especially as we get into the evening hours. Once we get past sunset those totals are going to rise, those winds are going to pick up, and it’s going to be really messy everywhere.”

Vrydaghs said Dayton could get a higher snow total or join its southern suburbs with an accumulation of 4-6 inches, but ice will be a factor and wind gusts of 35-40 mph are expected in the evening.

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The storm also complicated preparations for Dayton plow crews, said Tom Ritchie Jr., deputy director of Public Works.

“The forecast has been all over the place,” he said. “We’re kind of holding off on making all of our final judgment calls to get the most current report.”

Ritchie said drivers will be covering 41 routes Saturday, but it was unclear how each stretch of the 1,500 lane miles would be treated.

“We’ll have to make some calls whether to be plowing, whether to be salting, or whether to be plowing and salting,” he said.

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By Monday morning, the concern becomes subzero temperatures that will strain unprotected water pipes.

A little preparation before Sunday night can prevent a far bigger problem, said Dave Seubert, an instructor at Plumbers, Pipefitters and Refrigeration Workers Local 162.

Those who are able to can put up a barrier to help block wind from exposed pipe or wrap insulation or heat tape around a pipe. Cabinet doors can be left open to let room heat get to pipes that might be in an exterior wall. But those alternatives won’t work in every situation, Seubert said.

“If there’s any potential for cold air movement anywhere in your house, you can let your water trickle, because moving water won’t freeze,” he said.

If a pipe freezes and hasn’t cracked, you may be able to thaw it out, Seubert said. Just don’t use a torch or another method with a flame.

“If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll end up catching something on fire and there will be more damage.” he said. “If it’s frozen and you notice the pipe is split, the first thing you want to do is shut the water off before it thaws. Because if it thaws there’s a chance there’s going to be a major flood.”

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