By JOY BROWN
The extreme cold snap finally loosened its grip on the region Wednesday.
The temperature rose to a high of 15 degrees in Findlay, after record-setting cold on Monday and Tuesday, the Water Pollution Control Center reported. A high of 18 was recorded Wednesday at the Findlay Airport.
Snowplow crews spread salt on icy roads, and schools in the region, closed for three days, made plans to reopen today.
Many roads remained treacherous, though. A Mount Cory man died in a crash on an ice-covered road in Hardin County.
Darrin Conaway, 50, was killed in a single-vehicle accident on Hardin County 20, north of Ada, about 8:10 a.m. Wednesday, the Findlay post of the State Highway Patrol reported.
The patrol said Conaway, a rear seat passenger, was ejected from a 1999 Dodge Caravan driven by Mark Schlachter, 26, of Ada, who was not injured. Kyle Conaway, 27, of Ada, a front seat passenger, also was ejected and was taken to Lima Memorial Hospital by Alger Emergency Medical Service with non-life-threatening injuries, the patrol said.
According to the patrol, Schlachter was driving west on the county road when he lost control and the van went off the road, struck a utility pole and overturned.
Seat belts were not worn by anyone in the van, according to the patrol. The crash remained under investigation Wednesday.
Most area schools remained closed Wednesday, but as weather and road conditions improved, many were hoping to reopen after a two-hour delay today.
But two districts in the area, Elmwood in Wood County, and St. Louis in Henry County, decided not to try reopening yet.
With temperatures edging upward, Hancock County and five nearby counties upgraded their roadway warnings to a Level 1 weather alert Wednesday. Level 1, the lowest level, warns of treacherous travel conditions.
Other counties under this designation Wednesday night were Wyandot, Henry, Putnam, Allen and Wood counties.
Seneca County remained under a Level 2 weather advisory Wednesday, which discourages any unnecessary traveling.
Hardin County did not have any roadway warning Wednesday, according to that county’s sheriff’s office.
In Findlay and Hancock County, snowplow crews took advantage of warmer temperatures Wednesday by dumping salt and stone on snowy and icy roads.
More drivers ventured out as Hancock County reduced its road warning to Level 1. The extra traffic helped the salt and stone do their work.
Findlay crews had started spreading salt on Tuesday, but “the salt is working better (Wednesday) breaking up the snow pack because of temperature change and traffic flow,” said Matt Stoffel, Findlay’s public works director.
City crews will keep plowing to remove whatever snow and ice are left, Stoffel said.
Not everyone is in agreement about what temperature allows salt to become effective on ice, but Findlay and county workers were using it Wednesday.
“I have found that the salt with no additives starts losing effectiveness at around 14 degrees and below,” Stoffel said. “Everyone seems to have different opinions and theories on that. Again, the temperature and the traffic flow has a lot to do with that.”
“Compare a main road to a less traveled road … both being treated with salt,” Stoffel said.
Hancock County’s 17-truck fleet on Wednesday was using a mixture of salt and stone, particularly at intersections, to bust through the ice and snow pack, said county Engineer Christopher Long. County crews were expected to continue that work today.
“It’s tricky since we’re expecting rain this weekend. So we’re trying to get the snow off before the rain comes. If not, and it gets cold enough” after the rain, county roads will “become a sheet of ice again,” Long said.
Both city and county governments are expecting fresh deliveries of salt soon.
Long said the county has depleted its approximate 1,000 tons of salt, much of which was left over from last winter. It is expecting a 200-ton delivery today. The county typically goes through about 6,000 tons each winter, he said.
The city uses about half of what the county does, or about 3,500 tons during a typical winter, Stoffel said. As of Wednesday, it had about 500 tons on hand, and is expecting a 750-ton order next week “after 2014 budgets are approved,” he said.
The Ohio Department of Transportation was also optimistic about road-clearing progress Wednesday.
“Crews see an opportunity today to have some success in removing packed ice from area highways with the sun and warming temperatures,” spokeswoman Rhonda Pees said.
Even warmer weather, and some rain, is in the forecast.
Today’s predicted high temperature is 27 degrees in Findlay, according to the National Weather Service.
Less than a half-inch of snow is possible today, the weather service said, and less than an inch of snow could fall tonight.
On Friday, a high of about 38 degrees and light rain is predicted. Between a tenth- and a quarter-inch of rain is possible Friday night, the weather service said.
By Saturday, a high near 45 is expected, with a quarter-inch to a half-inch of rain, the weather service said. No rain is currently in the forecast after that.
Daily highs are expected to be in the upper 30s and lower 40s from Sunday through Tuesday.
Courier reporter Eric Schaadt contributed to this story.
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