Wintry blast taking aim at Portage

From staff and wire reports Published:

CINCINNATI -- An icy blast of wintry weather was bearing down on Ohio even as much of the state was unseasonably warm Thursday.

Temperatures in the 50s and 60s were expected to plunge by the weekend, some by more than 40 degrees.

A mix of freezing rain, sleet and snow was expected late Thursday or early Friday for most of Ohio, with significant snowfall later Friday in the southwest and central regions, in some cases during peak afternoon commutes.

And Portage County is not expected to dodge the bullet, said Thomas Schmidlin, a meteorologist from Kent.

Schmidlin said temperatures were 62 degrees Thursday morning at his weather station in Kent, but a cold front is moving east, and all of Ohio, as well as many southern states, will feel some of the impact.

"It was 15 below in Denver, and as low as 30 below in other areas," he said. "That's coming our way."

While it's not expected to be that cold in Ohio, Schmidlin said Portage County can expect to wake up to about two to three inches of snow on Friday, enough to shovel and scrape off of cars. Snowfall is expected to be about two to three inches.

The National Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory for several Ohio counties, including Portage, Summit, Stark, Trumbull and Mahoning counties until 10 p.m. Friday.

Temperatures were expected to drop steadily and remain consistent through Friday, and the weather service predicted that visibility could be limited to less than a quarter of a mile at times.

"As a cold front moves through, that's going to bring rain, changing to a wintry mix, changing to all snow tomorrow," said Mike Kurz, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Wilmington, in southwest Ohio.

Kurz said a swath of Ohio in the Interstate 70 and 71 corridors from Cincinnati through Columbus is likely to see the most snow. Most counties there are expected to get 2 to 6 inches by Friday night, with much colder temperatures falling into the teens in some places.

Schmidlin said residents shouldn't cancel their weekend plans, but should be careful.

"They need to pay attention," he said. "They should feel free to visit and enjoy the weather, they just need to pay attention."

Ohio's AAA travel club expects a busy Friday, with calls for help from thousands of stranded motorists likely.

"We're ready for the storm," spokeswoman Kimberly Schwind said. "We're calling in extra crews because we're anticipating skyrocketing numbers of calls."

She said besides slick and icy conditions, sharp temperature drops can cause low tire pressure, leading to spinouts and flat tires, and dead batteries are also a problem in sudden cold. AAA recommends that motorists gas up in case they get stranded.

Meanwhile, flood watches were issued across southeast Ohio, with rain and sleet expected.

Kurz said it's difficult to make an overall prediction on what kind of winter Ohioans can expect, since there are no strong global weather factors such as an El Nino that can have an impact.

He said there likely will be a lot of "short-term variability" in the weeks ahead.

"You kind of wait and see what it brings," Kurz said.

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