Snow Emergency Information
Attorney General's Opinion No. 97-015
Authority of County Sheriff to Close Roads during Snow Emergencies
Pursuant to Attorney General Opinion 86-023 the Sheriff of a County may declare a snow emergency and temporarily close County and Township roads within his jurisdiction for the preservation of the public peace. Attorney General Opinion 97-015 also allows the Sheriff to close State and Municipal roads.
To briefly summarize this opinion, the county sheriff's authority to close county and township roads during a snow emergency was expanded to include closure of state roads and municipal streets. The authority falls generally within a county sheriff's duty to preserve the public peace. The Attorney General's opinion is that there should be no distinction among the different types of roads within each county so long as the circumstances warrant closure during snow emergencies.
In order to clarify the definition of the snow emergency, Ohio Sheriff's adopted guidelines to be followed when closing highways due to severe weather. The policy is as follows:
Level I SNOW ALERT
Roadways are hazardous with blowing and drifting snow .
Level II SNOW ADVISORY
Roadways are hazardous with blowing and drifting snow. Only those who feel it is necessary to drive should be out on the roadways. Contact your employer to see if you should report to work.
Level III SNOW EMERGENCY
All Municipal, Township, County, and State roadways are closed to Non-emergency personnel. No one should be out during these conditions unless it is absolutely necessary to travel. Those traveling on the roadways may subject themselves to arrest.
Winter Driving Tips
The best advice for driving in bad winter weather is not to drive at all, if you can avoid it. Don't go out until the snow plows and sanding trucks have had a chance to do their work, and allow yourself extra time to reach your destination. If you must drive in snowy conditions, make sure your car is prepared.
Winterize Your Car
- Prepare your car for winter:
- Checking the ignition, brakes, wiring, hoses, fan belts and wiper blades
- Check and replace all burned out headlights, tail lights and turn signals
- Changing and adjusting the spark plugs
- Checking the air, fuel and emission filters, and the PCV valve
- Inspecting the distributor
- Checking the battery
- Checking the tires for air, sidewall wear and tread depth. Ensure that each tire’s treads are one-sixteenth inch deep for adequate traction
- Checking antifreeze levels and the freeze line
- Refer to the vehicle’s manual to see if a lighter grade of motor oil is recommended for winter driving
- Winterize your vehicle's safety kit. The kit should include some special additions, such as
- a blanket
- sand, bag of salt, or cat litter to help get traction,
- flashlight and extra batterie,
- first aid kit
- Jumper cables
- ice scraper and snow brush
- lock de-icer
- Exterior windshield cleaner
- Ice scraper and snow brush
- Wooden stick matches in a waterproof container
- Scissors and string/cord
- Non-perishable, high-energy foods like unsalted canned nuts, dried fruits, and hard candy.
- properly inflated spare tire, wheel wrench and tripod-type jack
- tow and tire chains
- tool kit
- Conduct a pre-trip inspection.
- Clean and defrost all your windows! Visibility in snow is limited! Don't forget to clean of the headlights and taillights!
- Check the antifreeze,
- make sure you have the proper tires to handle the weather
- be sure you have enough gas for the trip
- make sure wipers are in good shape
- If your vehicle locks freeze, heat your key. Do not pour hot water on the locks - they will refreeze.
- Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow. Poisonous gases filter into your vehicle if the pipe is clogged
- Keep your gas tank at least half full. Fill the tank before you park for lengthy periods. This will help prevent fuel line freeze-up
If You Must Go Out
- Respect the winter weather, plan extra time for a trip in the winter. Pay attention to weather reports on the radio. Allow time in your schedule for bad weather and/or traffic delays.
- Wear safety belts.
- Don't drink and drive.
- Be ready for changing conditions.
- Become familiar with your vehicle's winter weather operating characteristics. Front-wheel-drive vehicles generally handle better than rear-wheel vehicles on slippery roads because the weight of the engine is on the drive wheels, improving traction.
- Don't get "SUV overconfidence". The bigger the vehicle, the tougher it is to stop. While an SUV might get through some touugh conditions more easily, it won't stop more quickly, and it may roll over if you make a turn too fast.
- Know how to react to trouble. If you have anti-lock brakes, don't pump them; press them down as hard as you can. If you go into a skid, turn the steering wheel in the direction you want the front of the car to go; that will keep the vehicle from skidding out of control. Then prepare to counter steer 2 or 3 times.
- Leave some space between you and the car in front of you - follow the 3 second rule. Braking distance can be up to nine times greater on snowy, icy surfaces than on dry roads.
- Diffuse road rage. To avoid becoming a road rage statistic, leave more room between yourself and other drivers. Stay ouf of the left lane if you are going slower than the posted speed limit.
- During winter travel, it is best to supply those at your destination with the following information: your cell phone number, departure time, travel route and anticipated arrival time.
If You Become Stranded...
- Do not leave your car unless you know exactly where you are, how far it is to possible help, and are certain you will improve your situation.
- To attract attention, light two flares and place one at each end of the car a safe distance away. Hang a brightly colored cloth from your antenna.
- If you are sure the car's exhaust pipe is not blocked, run the engine and heater for about 10 minutes every hour or so depending upon the amount of gas in the tank.
- To protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia use the woolen items and blankets to keep warm. Use floor mats, seat covers and blankets for added warmth. If you must leave your vehicle during a blizzard, secure a lifeline of rope or cord to your car to avoid becoming lost or disoriented.
- Keep at least one window open slightly. Heavy snow and ice can seal a car shut.
- Eat a hard candy to keep your mouth moist.
Some content reprinted with permission from the National Safety Council