COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Department of Transportation is asking drivers to avoid traveling Wednesday through Friday in preparation for a winter storm that’s projected to hit the state.
The announcement comes a day after the National Weather Service issued a Winter Storm Watch throughout the state and a Winter Storm Warning for parts of northern Ohio, both set to take effect late Wednesday.
In central Ohio, potential sleet could turn to freezing rain on Thursday. These conditions pose the largest threat for Ohio Department of Transportation crews, according to a release. That's because ODOT says there is no way to treat roads ahead of a freezing rain storm and, once the roads are treated, the materials can be easily washed away.
“We are encouraging Ohioans to avoid any unnecessary trips during the storm to help give all of our road crews room to work,” said Governor Mike DeWine. “For those who must travel, please be safe and take it slow, giving yourself plenty of time to get to your destination.”
The Ohio Department of Transportation is responsible for treating more than 43,000 lane miles across the state. Crews hope to keep the average traffic speed on primary routes back to within 10 miles per hour of the posted speed limit within two hours of the storm ending.
Matt Bruning, a spokesperson with ODOT, said with the expected rain, it makes it impossible to treat roads right now in preparation.
“Pretreating at this stage would simply not work because that’s just going to get washed right off the roadway,” ODOT Spokesperson, Matt Bruning, said.
Bruning says the answer for crews, as painful as it is to say and hear, is to wait for the rain to head out.
“We just have to stay on top of it and hit the road immediately and just start salting constantly once that precipitation starts to fall,” he said.
"During winter storms, ODOT strives to keep roads passable to help ensure that emergency services and essential workers can safely reach their destinations," said ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks. “But even with our crews out in full force, roads will likely be snow and ice-covered, and it will take much longer to travel. Once the storm moves out, our crews will be able to make progress toward getting traffic moving at regular speed."
Once the storm moves out, ODOT tries to get primary roads up to 10 miles per hour of the posted speed limit within two hours. That’s a goal Bruning says ODOT hit 95 percent of the time last year.
Still, Bruning highlights the importance of the road less traveled saying if you don’t have to be out, stay home. If you do have to be out, he recommends giving yourself at least double, triple or maybe even quadruple the amount of time to get where you’re going.
“If the forecast holds, it’s going to be that bad,” he said.
And, when out, stay away from crews.
Bruning says already this year 17 plows have been struck by vehicles. That number is compared to 46 all of last winter.