The Akron area’s first big snowstorm of the season might best be described as disruptive but not dire.
And, for weather enthusiasts, perhaps a bit disappointing.
The storm, originally expected to dump a foot of snow or more, was downgraded from a winter storm warning to an advisory about 5:45 p.m. Wednesday, with forecasters predicting the accumulation to be at the lower end of the previous estimate of 6 to 12 inches.
Earlier in the day, though, the storm sent some workers home from their jobs early, prompted unplanned closures and city snow bans, and caused numerous crashes, including one involving a tractor-trailer that closed a leg of the interstate.
As of 5 p.m., about 5.1 inches of the white stuff had fallen at Akron-Canton Airport. Forecasters expected another 1 to 3 inches for the night.
The National Weather Service is calling for flurries today and a reprieve Friday, with snow returning Friday evening and through the weekend.
Akron police closed eastbound Interstate 76 at East Market Street about 3:30 p.m. because of an overturned tractor-trailer. The truck driver wasn’t seriously injured.
Traffic was backed up to the central interchange. The truck was leaking fluid and a hazardous materials team was called in. The interstate reopened about 8 p.m.
Numerous police agencies reported cars sliding off roads, but no accidents were reported with serious injuries.
The organizations that closed early or canceled evening activities included the Akron Area YMCA, all branches of Akron-Summit County Public Library and Akron Public Schools. The district wasn’t in session because of the holiday break.
The cities that issued snow parking bans to make way for plows included Akron, Hudson, Wadsworth and Louisville.
Before the storm began Wednesday, the National Weather Service showed that the Akron-Canton Airport reporting station was 8.2 inches below the average 11.4 inches of snowfall for this time of winter.
An hour after the snow started to fall outside Akron Children’s Hospital, administrators began compiling a list of employees on hand, including those who might spend the night as the weather worsened.
“I brought my clothes; I’m ready,” said Pam Baker, the hospital’s associate chief nursing officer.
The hospital made a concerted effort to pre-empt the storm by discharging as many children as possible Wednesday morning.
“If they were ready to go home, we really tried to get them out of here,” Baker said.
About 85 nurses and 45 support staff serviced an influx of patients because of flu and respiratory illnesses that often plague the holiday season. Along with a toothbrush and extra clothes, the hospital set aside 15 beds on the top floor for employees who had to stay overnight.
Baker said if snow continued to accumulate, the hospital’s helicopter would remain grounded and icy roads could stifle patient transports from one hospital to another.
The Ohio Department of Transportation’s road crews didn’t wait for the storm to hit Wednesday afternoon. They were busy putting down a salt brine solution Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, ODOT spokesman Brent Kovacs said. The brine prevents snow from sticking to the roadway and ice from forming, he said.
ODOT District 4 — consisting of Summit, Portage, Stark, Ashtabula, Mahoning and Trumbull counties — had 150 trucks loaded with salt and ready to go “as soon as the snow flies,” Kovacs said.
Meanwhile, the Ohio Turnpike issued a ban for specific large vehicles because of the expected high winds. The ban ran from 11:30 a.m. Wednesday through 7 a.m. today.
The following vehicles cannot be on the 241-mile highway: all triple-trailer combination commercial vehicles; box-type double-trailer commercial vehicles more than 90 feet in length; mobile home/office trailers; high-profile campers and enclosed trailers, and boat and horse trailers towed by a passenger vehicles or pickup trucks.
ODOT urged people to take their time when traveling and to provide plenty of distance between themselves and other vehicles, especially plows.
“Don’t crowd the plow,” Kovacs said.