OHIO VALLEY — As Winter Storm Jonas threatens residents living in the Ohio Valley with a possible 6 to 12 inches or more of snow, emergency personnel say care should be taken to avoid unpleasant situations that put their life or the lives of others at risk.
According to the National Weather Service office in Charleston, W.Va., meteorologists predict heavy snowfall amounts beginning at 10 a.m. Friday and lasting until 7 p.m. Saturday. NWS is calling for 6 to 12 inches of snow during that time. Winds could gust up to 25 mph, which means snow drifts and possible whiteout conditions are likely.
“Basically, the long and short of it is that drivers need to slow down and drive ahead,” Sgt. Jake Schuldt, of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, said. “When I say drive ahead, you need to increase your following distance and stopping distance to allow for more reaction time. If you normally start slowing down 100 feet from a stop sign, you need to double that. That will give you more room between vehicles. Give yourself more time to travel. Drive slower so you don’t have to brake as much. Because the more you have to brake on icy conditions, the more chance you have of spinning out of control.”
OSHP troopers recommend that under icy conditions, drivers should assume that all bridges are slick and hazardous. Drivers should take their foot off the accelerator and coast over the bridge’s length before resuming acceleration.
Troopers also recommend that drivers inspect their tires before going out on the road. If a tire is “nearly bald” of its tread, Schuldt said drivers “shouldn’t even consider” driving. Front tires are especially important as many vehicles are front-wheel propelled.
In the event a driver slides into a ditch, troopers say to make sure the vehicle’s exhaust is unplugged to keep from dying of carbon monoxide poisoning. Should a driver exit their vehicle to inspect a situation, they must be aware of their surroundings as other drivers may slide on the same patch of ice and collide with pedestrians.
Troopers believe drivers should always carry a flashlight in the car, as well as a second change of warm clothing in the event a vehicle is stranded. Gloves, boots and a good winter jacket should be among some of the items considered. Road flares may also be necessary for weather conditions in which there is low visibility. Children should also have plenty of clothing in the event of unforeseen circumstances.
Schuldt also said people driving four-wheel drive vehicles are not invincible. Whereas four-wheel drive is a useful tool when navigating adverse road conditions, SUVs and other larger vehicles can still slide off roadways. Caution should always be exercised, he said. Troopers add that people should only drive in icy conditions if necessary.
According to Gallia County Emergency Management Agency Director Sherry Daines, before a snowstorm, people should take note of supplies in the home and make sure plenty of food and water is available. A radio should be available to listen for road condition and weather updates. Flashlights, blankets, warm clothing and extra batteries should be available in the event people are snowed in. Daines also suggested homeowners consider preparing an alternate source of heat should utilities malfunction.
Daines told the Tribune the Gallia County EMA is preparing its Emergency Operation Center for the coming winter storm. Dispatchers have been forewarned in the Gallia County 911 Center that longer shifts may be required.
Ross County American Red Cross has been put on notice as well. The chapter serves the Pickaway, Fayette, Fairfield, Hocking, Vinton and Gallia County areas as well.
Should people be looking to volunteer, the chapter is always in need. Contact them at (740) 772- 2014.