EAST LIVERPOOL - Columbiana County residents received a wintery start to the new year Thursday with snow and temperatures dipping into the teens and a winter weather advisory in effect for the area until midnight Thursday. Weather conditions appear poised to make the next week even more winter-like with high winds, more snow, and temperatures plunging into the single digits.
A low pressure system lingering in northern Kentucky was to blame for Thursday's winter weather according to Meteorologist Lee Hendricks with the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh. As the low pressure system made its way east across northern West Virginia it was expected to bring an additional 1 to 3 inches of snow to the area and falling temperatures Thursday. Hendricks noted that high winds complicated matters, making temperatures feel even colder and causing dangerous drifting snow. Over night lows Thursday into Friday were forecast to dip to about 6 degrees, accompanied by winds up to 30 miles per hour. The temperatures this morning will likely feel like negative 13 degrees with the wind chill.
"When it's that cold, dress in layers and have minimal exposed skin," said Hendricks. "If you have pets don't leave them outdoors."
Winter weather slows traffic on Fifth Street in downtown East Liverpool on Thursday. A winter weather advisory was in effect for most of the day. Temperatures are expected to climb back up into the 30’s over the weekend but will fall back to the single digits by mid week next week. (Photo by Devin Bezeredi)
Hendricks noted that in Pittsburgh where, much like East Liverpool, water lines remain in place from the early part of the 20th century there is a threat that the antiquated lines could freeze.
That same low pressure system making its way across northern Kentucky is expected to eventually combine with another low pressure system off of the East coast. The merging of these two low pressure systems is what some national media outlets have been referring to as winter storm "Hercules." Hendricks predicted that if the two storms do merge, North Eastern Ohio could see even more of the cold temperatures and snow in the coming days.
Hendricks says Saturday may be the exception to the recent wintery trend, with temperatures climbing into the thirties and the sun showing itself for a change. Monday will see cold temperatures and snow return with highs in the lower 20's, falling to 10 below zero. Tuesday will be even colder with temperatures from negative 5 to zero for most of the day. Wind chills for Monday night and Tuesday could be as cold as 40 degrees below zero according to Hendricks. While the National Weather Service does not take wind chill into account when documenting record lows, Hendricks noted that the record low for this area was recorded January 17 1994 at negative 22 degrees.
"Particularly with temperatures dropping down into the single digits, salt no longer works really, so be really cautious on bridges and overpasses," said Hendricks.
St. Clair Township Road Foreman Scott Barrett is well aware of road salt's ineffectiveness at sub zero temperatures. He notes that the township applies a material called number eight slag to the roadways when road salt becomes ineffective. The larger and more coarse number 8 slag gives drivers a grip on the roadway when road salt fails to do so he says.
"It doesn't really matter for us how cold it gets," said Barrett.
Despite the best efforts of road crews to keep roadways snow-free, roads all over Columbiana County remained treacherous for much of Thursday. Responding to a slew of traffic accidents throughout the day, the St. Clair Township Police Department issued a statement via their Facebook page advising drivers to stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary.
"The roads are a mess," read the department's post. "That's all that needs said. Road crews have been out all day but (snow) is falling faster than they can keep up. If you don't have to go out stay in for the evening. If you have no choice, take your time and stay safe."
Meteorologist are forecasting some improvement in the weather in coming days. Temperatures are predicted to begin slowly climbing into the teens on Wednesday of next week, but could be set back again as another system moves into the area said Hendricks.