GALLIPOLIS — On Monday, the added slush and rain increased hazards for road conditions prompting Gallia Sheriff Matt Champlin and Meigs Sheriff Keith Wood to declare snow emergencies in their respective counties.
As of Monday, Jan. 8, Gallia was under a level one emergency and Meigs was under a level two emergency.
According to weathersafety.ohio.gov, there are three levels of snow emergencies. Level one is classified as snow and ice are drifting across the roadway and motorists should use caution when going out. Level two includes drifting snow and increased ice on the roadway, and driving should be as limited as possible. Employees should check with their supervisors to determine if it is necessary to report to work. Level three closes all roadways to non-emergency personnel or emergency transportation.
According to Champlin, the office of sheriff has the ability to declare snow emergencies under the Ohio Revised Code.
“The sheriff under ORC has certain powers and authorities to dictate things. Through historic attorney general opinions the sheriff has authority and may declare weather-related emergencies,” said Champlin.
When discussing drivers on the roadway during level two and three emergencies, Champlin encourages drivers to stay off the roadway.
“Ultimately level two provides that discretion for an employer to say that they have to come to work. Level three really takes that, if it’s your job you have a right and duty to respond if your employer tells you to,” said Champlin. “However we are at that point, closing the roadways and dictating that nobody other than emergency personnel, essential employees and medical staff should be on the roadways.”
During level three snow emergencies officers patrolling the roads have the authority to issue citations if someone is on the roadways during a level three.
“Tickets can be issued, we do have that authority but obviously it is a case by case basis. Thankfully we don’t see the quantity of snow that a lot of other places do,” said Champlin. “I know that Meigs and Athens Counties have seen more severe weather than what we did today (Monday).”
When determining a snow level emergency, Champlin works with other agencies in Gallia to determine what level to declare.
“We communicate with our 911 center and emergency personnel, and evaluate the situation with what our guys out on the streets are seeing, good open lines of communication I think are necessary. We are all after the same thing…safety on the roadway,” said Champlin.
When out on the roadway in severe weather, hazards increase and drivers need to operate with caution when roadways are covered in snow and ice.
“The big thing that I would say is use good common sense. Obviously distracted driving is always a hazard, if you’re going to be out driving in these conditions, leave your cell phone alone,” said Champlin. “We’re going to use our discretion if the need would ever arise that we would need to elevate to a level three. We would use common sense and communication with our citizens to dictate how the situation plays out.”
Reach Morgan McKinniss at 740-446-2342.