The Franklin County area was blanketed with ice pellets Thursday morning and the area is still digging out as of Friday.
The winter weather caused schools to close and events to cancel or postpone throughout the area from Wednesday through Friday. The West Franklin School District dismissed school at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday ahead of the storm.
Richard Nienstedt, Ottawa city manager, issued a statement Thursday morning on the city’s facebook about the winter storm.
“Good morning Ottawans on this fine winter morning. Here are some important points for you to ponder:
1. If you do not have to get out, do not do it. Stay home and watch CSPAN 1 or 2 so you can appreciate the real world when you do get out in it.
2. If you have to get out, drive safely and carefully. This weather and the roads are not for the faint hearted or the Mario Andretti race driver.
3. If you going to drive, clean off the entire front and back windshields as well as the passenger and driver windows (all four of them). When that officer hands you a ticket for driving with obstructed vision, the argument that you could see some of the world will not play well.
Seriously, drive carefully, be a defensive driver, be prepared for time delays and practice safety at all times if you have to be out during weather such as we are experiencing.
And I might add the road crews have been out all night. They are doing everything they can for sleet mitigation. We have no reports of electric lines down at this time. Our law enforcement officers have been out patrolling and assisting as they always do, rain, shine, snow or sleet.
The key to being safe rests with you,” he concluded.
The county and city public works departments have been treating the streets and roads since Tuesday when a freezing mist came through the area.
“We have been taking care of freeze-thaw issues that occurred early this week,” David Lee, county public works director, said. “We took care of the worst of those and then we rolled into pre-treating. About 2 a.m. Thursday, we had crews roll out and start treating roads again. We did that all night. [Thursday morning] we are taking care of sub divisions, parking lots and those kind of things to make sure everybody can travel as safely as possible.”
Michael Haeffle, city public works director, said the city split into two crews and had a crew out in the middle of the ice storm early Thursday morning. He said the crews hit the bridges hard.
“They have a tendency to ice over,” Haeffle said. “If you put salt down first, the sleet comes in and covers it up. It will take longer and we will end up putting more out. The guys were doing their best to keep intersections safe. Everything has been hit more than once. When you get ice like this, it is not something you can do it once and walk away.”
Adam Weingartner, Ottawa police chief, said it was a quiet night Wednesday into Thursday because of those public works crews.
“Patrol staff responded to a few accidents [Wednesday], but overall people heeded travel warnings and kept off city streets,” Weingartner said. “We are thankful for the street crews who treated roadways overnight. Their work helped make road conditions as safe as possible for those that had to travel. If you must drive be cautious, drive much slower than normal and drastically increase stopping distances-especially at intersections.”
Both public works directors said ice storms can be tricky.
“Ice is our worst enemy,” Haeffle said. “With the sun coming out [Thursday] afternoon, they should start clearing up. The sun getting down on that salt should help start melting things off. There is a point where you have to let the salt and sun work together. We try to put enough stuff down where there is traction.”
Lee said, “Ice is always a huge concern. You combine that with the [low] temperatures, once it gets below about 16 degrees, the salt is not as effective. We mix it with sand and other things to give it some grit. As long as folks are traveling at a reasonable speed, the roads should be passable.
We are taking particularly an interest in some of the hills and the shaded areas. We are keeping an eye on them. We have a few of those that we have treated more than twice to help provide a little more traction.”
The thawing and freezing over and over have caused pothole issues on hard-surface roads in the city and county. The city worked on fixing a sink hole at the intersection of Fifth and Walnut earlier this week. Lee said the county will begin filling in potholes after this winter event.
“We talked [Wednesday] about trying a different type of material,” Lee said. “The public needs to let us know if they see some dangerous conditions. We will get at least a temporary patch in there so folks can travel safely.”