Harper is coming for a visit.

And if the forecasts hold true, the so-called winter storm could dump anywhere from 10 to 15 inches of snow in Akron and even more in communities to the east, including Kent and Ravenna.

The National Weather Service has already issued a winter storm watch for the area from 4 a.m. Saturday to 4 a.m. Monday and is warning this could be the “worse” such storm in a decade.

A “deep low pressure” is expected to move across the Ohio Valley on Saturday bringing with it hours and hours of persistent snow to Northeast Ohio.

“Snow will move into the region from the west toward morning Saturday and should quickly spread east and become heavy through the late morning and early afternoon,” the weather service warned. “Snow will continue heavy at times into Saturday night, tapering in the west by midnight.”

And then the Lake Erie snow machine is expected to fire up in portions of northern Summit and Portage counties and Medina County to the west.

The weather service warns travel could be “very difficult to impossible” as winds are expected to gust to as high as 35 mph as the storm moves through the region.

Blowing and drifting snow, the weather service warns could make some roads impassable.

“Get errands and travel plans done Friday,” the weather service urged on a Facebook post.

Akron is hoping its roads do not become impossible to navigate.

But with a predicted half inch or more of snowfall an hour, Chris Ludle, Akron’s deputy service director, said it looks like the city’s plow operators will have a tough task of keeping up.

The city has already declared this a Level 4 snow event — the worst possible — meaning it will be all hands on deck with some 51 plows hitting 51 predetermined routes through the city.

Major roads and intersections get the first priority along with those roads outside of hospitals, fire stations and hilly terrains.

In all, Akron has 230 workers certified and trained to operate a plow and spare vehicles that can be dispatched to back up those already out on the predetermined routes that snake their way through the city.

If it gets as bad as predicted, Ludle said, the city is asking motorists to be patient and give the plows room to clear the roads.

He notes that if the predicted 10 inches or more of snow falls — it would be the first such major snowfall in a 24-hour period in a decade in Akron.

“If you don’t have to go somewhere if it gets as bad as they say, please just stay home,” Ludle said.

Like Akron, the Ohio Department of Transportation is gearing up for what could be a very, very busy weekend.

Spokesman Brent Kovacs said there are 20 plows sitting ready to head out to clear roads in Summit County alone.

And the good news, Kovacs said, is this winter has been so mild there’s plenty of salt on hand.

There are 14,000 tons of salt set aside for Summit County and so far just 4,000 has been used so far this winter.

“We could get a little bit of snow or a lot — either way we are preparing for something in the middle,” he said.

Some cities — including Stow — have already issued parking bans well in advance of the first flake, asking residents to not park along city streets starting as early as Friday night.

Fearing the worst, some airlines including Southwest and Frontier are waiving rebooking fees for flights in and out of Cleveland this weekend.

The weather service says the snow will be just the first impact from this storm.

Bitter cold temperatures — the coldest of the season — are expected to settle over Akron on Sunday into Monday.

Wind chills as low as 20 degrees below zero are anticipated and could cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 30 minutes.

With this in mind, Akron’s Haven of Rest has declared a “Code Zero” and will open its doors on East Market Street all day Saturday and Sunday for those seeking shelter from the snow and cold.

Executive director the Rev. Jeffery A. Kaiser said lunch and dinner will be available along with warm beverages all day and cots for folks to stay the night.

“We just don’t want people to stay outside,” he said.

 

Craig Webb can be reached at cwebb@thebeaconjournal.com.