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Snow started falling heavily across Portage County before 11 a.m. Wednesday, covering roads and putting a damper on after-Christmas shopping trips.
By afternoon, Kent, Ravenna, Stow, Cuyahoga Falls, Tallmadge and Mogadore had announced emergency parking bans and Portage County Sheriff Dave Doak had issued a Level 1 snow emergency for the county. A Level 1 emergency means "roadways are hazardous with blowing and drifting snow. Roads may also be icy. Motorists are urged to drive very cautiously."
Thomas Schmidlin, local weather expert and professor of geography at Kent State University, said three inches of snow had fallen by 1 p.m. Wednesday. He said local residents could see anywhere up to a foot of snow by this morning.
The National Weather Service's Cleveland office cancelled a winter storm warning for Portage County at about 6 p.m. Wednesday, replacing it with a winter weather advisory, which alerts residents to the potential for light, blowing snow, strong winds and sleet.
The weather service predicted less than one inch of new snow would fall Thursday. Schmidlin said Portage County residents should get a short break from the snow for most of Thursday and Friday before it starts back up again this weekend.
"We'll probably see another lighter snow event on Saturday with an inch or two coming," he said.
The storm Wednesday caused a number of closures and parking bans, many of which remain in effect Thursday.
Shortly before 2 p.m. Wednesday, the Portage County Board of Commissioners announced it was closing all county buildings until noon Thursday.
Parking bans are in effect in Kent until further notice, Stow until 9 p.m. Thursday and Ravenna until 7 p.m. Thursday, including the city's Central Business District.
The bans are to allow city crews to clear snow and ice from city streets. During a snow emergency, parking on all city streets is banned to provide for snow and ice removal.
Numerous weather-related traffic crashes and instances of cars sliding off of roadways were reported throughout Wednesday. Ohio Edison reported that about 240 people in Portage County, mostly Suffield residents, lost electricity during the afternoon due to power outages caused by the storm.
Travelers can check with the Ohio Department of Transportation's web site (www.buckeyetraffic.org) for road conditions throughout Ohio.
ODOT spokesman Brent Kovacs said the agency had 16 plow trucks "prepped and ready to go" before snow started to fall heavily across Portage and other northeast counties. ODOT maintains 500 miles of state roads in Portage.
"Our crews have been pretreating with brine over the past 24 hours. This prevents the snow from bonding to the pavement. Local, county and state road crews were already on the roads by late morning Wednesday," Kovacs said.
Kovacs reminded motorists to drive carefully for changing conditions and, "Don't crowd the plows. Please give the plows their space to work."
Portage County Engineer Michael Marozzi said Wednesday morning that all county crews were out by 11 a.m., doing preventive salting where needed.
Marozzi cautioned drivers to allow extra time and to watch for changing road conditions as the storm progressed.
"If it comes with the intensity predicted, it could exceed our capability for some time," he said. "We can't be everywhere at the same time."
Streetsboro had 10 plow trucks out on city streets Wednesday morning, according to Mayor Glenn Broska.
Some stores closed early and events were canceled because of the weather.
The snowfall was expected to let up early Thursday as the storm center moved off to the northeast.