SALEM, Ohio — The first official day of spring is only a week away, but remember one thing: It’s still winter.
Mother Nature reminded us by walloping northeastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania with a one-two punch last week, first coating everything in sight in an icy glaze and then, when it seemed things were melting nicely, blanketing the landscape with close to 2 feet of snow.
Homes and farms in several areas were without electricity for hours or days, and crop producers have noted damage from the storm.
Les Ober, agriculture program assistant at the Geauga County Extension office, called last week’s precipitation nothing more than “a good old-fashioned winter storm.”
The storm was a good one, indeed: National Weather Service statistics show Thompson in Geauga County had 23 inches of snow on the ground as of noon March 9.
Nearby, in Pierpont in Ashtabula County, weather stations measured 25.5 inches of snow, and Madison, in Lake County, 28.5 inches of snow.
No corner of Ohio was spared. As of March 9, Ohio sheriffs’ departments reported Level 3 snow emergencies in six counties, Level 2 snow emergencies in 43 counties and Level 1 snow emergencies in 11 counties.
A Level 1 emergency means that conditions exist that make driving safety a concern. A Level 3 emergency means all roads are closed to nonemergency personnel or traffic, and anyone found on the roads may be cited, according to the state Emergency Management Agency.
Snow piled up in Pennsylvania, too. In Erie County, Franklin Center tallied 24.8 inches of snow as of March 9, and Crawford County’s Springboro marked 16.5 inches.
Fronts pushed freezing rain into the region last Tuesday and Wednesday, causing widespread power outages across Ohio.
David Marrison, Extension educator in Ashtabula County, said many households in that county had extended power outages lasting from Tuesday through Sunday.
“Snow is normal up here. It’s the ice that gets us.”
The ice was a particular concern to Les Ober and others who are involved in maple syrup production.
“There were a lot of limbs down in the sugarbush. We’re lucky the ice melted before the snow came. Ice plus snow, with all that weight, could have been disastrous,” he said.
Since the trees are tapped low to the ground, damage can actually be severe. Broken limbs pulled down by ice have the potential to break tap lines between trees, and affect overall production.
“Imagine all those broken limbs. Once a tree is tapped, you can have sap coming out everywhere.”
Marrison said he was unsure of how the ice and snow may have damaged some of the county’s vineyards or fruit farms. The extent of that damage would likely not be known until the spring thaw, he said.
No power. Geauga County’s Ober, who’s involved with an emergency services network, said most dairies in the area were prepared for the storm.
“I didn’t get a single call from a dairy looking for a generator,” he said.
Without electricity or a generator, the only way for a dairyman to milk the herd is by hand.
Marrison said 95 percent of dairies in his county are equipped with generators, and “probably every dairy farmer dusted off his generator and fired it up” last week.
“This kind of weather just makes it a little harder and slower to do chores,” he said.
Ashtabula County was also forced to postpone its dairy banquet due to the weather.
Farther south, in Knox County, many farms and homes were spared the ice, but not the snow, according to Extension educator Jeff McCutcheon.
McCutcheon reported many farmers in the county had concerns about getting feed to their farms both before and during the snow, and many of those farmers put extra feed out for their livestock to hold them in case the storm was worse than expected.
Many farms expecting feed deliveries, along with dairies expecting milk pickups, have been working quite a bit to be sure the trucks can get in and out, McCutcheon said.
The next concern for property owners will be flooding and ponding caused by the snow melt.
“We’ve had mild weather for so long, it took us by surprise. But in two, three days it will all melt away and we’ll be back to normal,” Ober said.