Blizzard Buries Ohio Valley, Delaying Hundreds of Flights
COLUMBUS, Ohio – A heavy winter storm walloped Ohio's capital city with more than 20 inches of snow, while blizzard conditions shut down highways and stranded air travelers across the state and parts of Indiana on Saturday.
High winds whipped the snow into 3-foot-tall drifts in some places and cut visibility to less than a quarter mile, the National Weather Service said.
"It's horrible out there right now," said 58-year-old Carman Bonfiglio, a FedEx Corp. driver who was stranded at a truck stop in Sunbury, about 20 miles northeast of Columbus. "Trucks are just spinning right here. In my days of driving I've never seen anything like it."
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The storm, which rolled in Friday, dumped 20.4 inches of snow on Columbus, breaking the city's previous record of 15.3 inches set in February 1910, the weather service said. Cincinnati and Cleveland also received about a foot of snow.
State officials urged motorists to avoid the roads. At least nine counties closed roads to non-emergency traffic, meaning that anyone caught driving was subject to arrest unless they were involved in an emergency.
In Indiana, 14 inches of snow fell in Milan, which is about 60 miles southeast of Indianapolis, said the weather service said.
Roads were impassable, prompting the county to declare a local emergency banning all vehicles except for emergency vehicles from the roads, authorities said.
"The winds are starting to pick up now, so we expect some of them to be pretty treacherous," Ripley County sheriff's Deputy Brian Maynard said of the roads.
It was a continuation of the storm that on Friday piled up snow a foot deep in Arkansas and blacked out thousands of homes and businesses from that state to the Great Lakes. Louisville, Ky., and parts of Tennessee got up to a foot, while northern Mississippi got 5 to 7 inches of snow, the weather service said.
Secondary roads and bridges were snow-covered and icy in Tennessee and Kentucky on Saturday morning, but much of that had melted by the afternoon when temperatures climbed into the upper 30s.
One Ohio traffic death was blamed on the weather Friday, with two in western New York state and one in Tennessee. Two people were killed as tornadoes struck several Florida communities.
At Port Columbus International Airport, a plane skidded a few hundred feet off a runway while landing late Friday, but no one was hurt, airport spokeswoman Angie Neal said.
Many flights into and out of Ohio were delayed or canceled on Saturday.
All flights in and out of Cleveland Hopkins International Airport were canceled Saturday, airport spokesman Todd Payne said. Crews struggled all day to clear the runways.
"There was really no reason to keep it open," Payne said. "We have 30-mile-an-hour sustained winds."
The airport, which has about 250 daily flights on the weekends, was scheduled to reopen at 5 a.m. Sunday, but flight delays were possible, he said.
The University of Cincinnati men's basketball team, unable to make its departure flight, postponed its game at No. 13 Connecticut until Sunday.
Hundreds of other weekend events were canceled, including Ohio girls high school basketball championship games in Columbus and several Kentucky boys basketball tournament games. The University of Louisville canceled Saturday classes.
A warm up was not expected until Tuesday, when the forecast called for temperatures in the lower 40s, the weather service said.
Flooding could be a concern if it warms up too quickly, said Nancy Dragoni, director of the Ohio Emergency Management Agency.
"We're hopeful that there'll be enough time for some of the water to go down in the rivers and creeks and streams so we can absorb the snow when it melts," she said.
In New Jersey, a heavy rain storm affected lines at the state lottery's main office in Trenton, delaying the midday drawings for the Pick 3 and Pick 4 games.
The storm also shut down lottery machines around the state until service was restored about 4 p.m., agency spokesman Dominick DeMarco said.
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