A Winter Wallop Slams Ohio Valley

Slippery Conditions Cited in Fatal Marshall County Crash

Photos by Jennifer Compston-Strough Several people brave slick, snowy conditions as they cross Market Street at 14th Street in downtown Wheeling on Saturday evening. They were among a large number of pedestrians and vehicles approaching WesBanco Arena as the Wheeling Nailers prepared for a contest against the Indy Fuel.

WHEELING — A massive storm that blanketed the Midwest in snow blew into the Ohio Valley late Saturday afternoon, but the wintry conditions did not stop area residents from leaving home to fulfill their evening plans.

While many people made it safely to WesBanco Arena in the downtown to watch the Wheeling Nailers face off against the Indy Fuel on Saturday night, most police and emergency agencies across the region were advising people to remain at home. In Marshall County, a traffic accident that occurred almost as soon as the snow began to fall resulted in one death and two additional injuries. And in Belmont County, widespread accidents and slippery conditions prompted officials to declare a Level 2 snow emergency.

Marshall County Sheriff Kevin Cecil said investigators were still gathering information on the fatal accident late in the evening. According to Cecil, the crash occurred when a driver traveling north on W.Va. 2 near Burch Ridge, located south of Washington Lands, lost control and “spun out.” It collided “nearly head-on” with a southbound vehicle, a Mercury Grand Marquis that Cecil said was considerably larger than the northbound car. He did not know the make or model of the smaller vehicle.

Cecil said the driver of the northbound car did not survive the accident that happened around 4 p.m. and led to the temporary closure of W.Va. 2. While he did not identify the deceased, Cecil said the driver was a Moundsville man in his mid 30s. His passenger, believed to be either the driver’s spouse or girlfriend, suffered “significant injuries” to her lower extremities and was taken to an area hospital.

The driver of the Grand Marquis also was transported to a hospital, but Cecil believed that person’s injuries were minor.

“It was not due to excessive speed,” Cecil said of the crash. “It was just a very direct impact.”

Although no other accidents of that magnitude had occurred in Marshall County by 8 p.m., Cecil said deputies had responded to a large number of accidents throughout the county. He said the five deputies on duty had been going from one crash to another since the snowfall began. He noted that some of those crashes also were serious, but none of them had turned fatal.

“They are all weather-related,” Cecil added. “Speed is a factor. People need to slow down if they are on the roads and drive sensibly.”

Across the Ohio River in Belmont County, Chief Deputy James Zusack agreed.

He said numerous accidents had occurred in all parts of the county on Saturday — so many that deputies were helping the Ohio State Highway Patrol get to them all.

“It’s bad,” Zusack said of the weather conditions. “People have got to slow down and drive safe.”

The county was listed under a Level 2 snow emergency, which means: “Roadways are hazardous with blowing and drifting snow. Roads may also be very icy. Only those who feel it is necessary to drive should be out on the roads. Contact your employer to see if you should report to work. Motorists should use extreme caution.”

Citing that declaration, Zusack added a simple piece of advice: “Don’t go out.”

A dispatcher with the patrol offered little additional comment, noting that the St. Clairsville post was extremely busy responding to accidents.

Conditions seemed to be slightly better in Ohio County, where fewer accidents were reported. County Emergency Management Agency Director Lou Vargo said crews in the county and in Wheeling had responded to a few accidental fire alarms and other minor incidents on Saturday, but they were not receiving the high volume of weather-related calls that surrounding counties were.

“The roads are very treacherous, but we have had no major incidents so far,” Vargo said around 8 p.m. “So far, so good, but we are still keeping a close watch on the roads.”

Vargo’s advice to local travelers was similar to that offered by Cecil and Zusack.

“I would just stay in,” Vargo said. “Don’t go out unless you have to. … Have an emergency kit with you if you do go out.”

Responders in the city of Wheeling were “pretty busy” Saturday afternoon as the snow started to fall, police and fire spokesman Phillip Stahl said. Although most of the incidents and accidents were fairly minor, Stahl said one vehicle did strike an apartment building in North Park. No injuries resulted.

The only accident in the city that led to someone being hospitalized happened on Suncrest Avenue, where a vehicle slid into a ravine. Stahl said the driver had to be extricated, and that person was transported to a hospital for treatment of neck and back pain.

Elsewhere in the nation, authorities said the snowstorm was a factor in at least five road deaths on Saturday and forced the grounds crew to scramble to clear snow from Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City ahead of the NFL divisional playoff game.

The storm moved into Kansas and Nebraska from the Rockies on Friday, then east into Missouri, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana, covering roads and making driving dangerous. Part of Interstate 44 near St. Louis was blocked for several hours Saturday, and at one point the Missouri State Highway Patrol warned of traffic delays as long as eight hours.

In Indiana, the northbound lanes of Interstate 65 were closed for hours Saturday after a semitruck jackknifed along the snow-covered highway near Lafayette, about 65 miles (105 kilometers) northwest of Indianapolis.

The storm was expected to spread east into the Mid-Atlantic region, with between 3 and 6 inches (7 and 15 centimeters) of snow expected in the Washington area, including parts of northern and central Maryland, by Sunday. Forecasters said heavier snow and higher amounts could fall in mountain areas north of Interstate 64, such as Charlottesville and Staunton, Virginia.

Missouri had gotten the worst of the storm by Saturday, with the National Weather Service reporting more than a foot (30.48 centimeters) of snow Saturday morning in some places around St. Louis and Jefferson City, and more than 18 inches (45 centimeters) in Columbia.

In Kansas City, where the Chiefs were hosting the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday, about 8 inches of snow had fallen by early afternoon. The snow had tapered off by the time the game started midafternoon, but stadium crews worked for hours before the game to clear the stadium’s lot, field and seats in anticipation of a full house for the playoff game.

At least five people were killed in crashes on slick roadways in Kansas and Missouri. They included a woman and her 14-year-old stepdaughter whose car slid into the path of a semitrailer in Clinton, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) southeast of Kansas City, on Friday, the Missouri State Highway Patrol said. Another woman died when her car slid on U.S. 24 in northern Missouri and was hit by an oncoming SUV.

In Kansas, a 62-year-old man died after his pickup truck skidded on the Kansas Turnpike and hit a concrete barrier, according to the patrol. Another crash involving two semitrailers in snowy conditions killed a 41-year-old driver from Mexico, the patrol said.

“We’re anticipating still more snow through today, so we’re asking motorists to stay home until the roads are cleared,” said Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Collin Stosberg, stationed in suburban Kansas City. “If you do have to get out on the road, we’re asking you to do three things: Have your cellphone fully charged, wear your seat belt and slow your speed for the conditions.”

Missouri troopers responded to more than 3,000 calls for help through early Saturday afternoon, including more than 700 crashes and 1,300 stranded vehicles. Illinois State Police said troopers along the Mississippi River across from St. Louis have responded to more than 100 crashes during the storm.

At Lambert International Airport in St. Louis, most flights were canceled or delayed.

In central Missouri, officials said about 12,000 households and businesses were without power in Columbia and the surrounding area at one point.