Start of Snowfall Closes Schools

WHEELING – Many area youngsters were released from school just in time to hit the slopes with their sleds on Tuesday, as snow began to fall around noon – about an hour before most area schools dismissed students for the day.

Some districts opted to plan ahead and announce Tuesday’s early dismissals on Monday evening as forecasters called for 3-6 inches of snow to fall across the local area over a two-day period. Others waited until the snow arrived.

The Wetzel County Sheriff’s Department helped spread the word that all county schools were dismissing at 1 p.m. with a post on its Facebook page. The department also urged travelers to plan ahead and allow extra time to reach their destinations, noting snow was expected to continue falling locally until about 7 p.m. today.

“Always be alert for ice that may be underneath falling snow that covers roadways and sidewalks,” said Wetzel County Sheriff James Hoskins. “In deteriorating weather conditions allow for extra time for travel if the travel is necessary.”

Ohio County sheriff’s Chief Deputy Drage Flick reinforced that message, saying it is important for people to avoid unnecessary driving in severe winter weather.

“Slow down,” Flick said “Leave a little early. Stay home unless you absolutely have to travel.”

A few minor accidents were reported in Wheeling and throughout the region as roadways became slick during the afternoon, but Ohio State Highway Patrol Sgt. James Tracy said none of the three early Tuesday accidents in Belmont County had been weather related. He expected that to change, though, with continued snowfall and declining temperatures in the evening.

“We would like it if everybody would reduce their speed to considerably less than the posted speed limit,” Tracy said of snowy conditions. “Every time we have a snow situation, people say, ‘I was going the speed limit.’

“It’s never the snow that causes an accident,” he added. “It’s always unsafe speed.”

As of 2:30 p.m., Tracy said crews with the Ohio Department of Transportation were doing a good job treating the roads and keeping them clear.

He anticipated that secondary roads would become treacherous in the evening, leading to fender benders and other difficulties for drivers.

“Don’t go out if don’t have to,” he said. “And if you do go out, allow four times as much time as you normally would.”

And accidents aren’t the only emergencies motorists should be prepared for during winter weather.

“Depending on the area of travel it may be a good idea to carry a flashlight, blankets, cell phone and other items in case you become stranded or the vehicle breaks down,” Hoskins said.

As of late Tuesday, Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers said they responded to eight traffic accidents, while deputies at the Belmont County Sheriff’s Department recorded “a few” crashes.

One person was killed as the result of a single vehicle crash that occurred on W.Va. 2, south of Beech Bottom at approximately 4:15 p.m. Tuesday. According to the Brooke County Sheriff Department, Michael Cipoletti, 48, of Wellsburg died in the accident. Officials were investigating late Tuesday to determine whether the crash was related to the poor driving conditions.