Sheriff defends his snow level decisions PDF Print E-mail
Written by ALEX ASPACHER Sentinel Staff Writer   
Monday, 31 March 2014 10:43
Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn speaks on the decision-making for snow emergencies in the county. (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn acknowledged that he's not always the most popular guy, particularly when Wood County encounters severe weather.
Speaking Friday to the county township association, the sheriff explained what factors determine whether he declares a snow emergency, still a touchy subject on the heels of the region's worst winter in decades.
Wasylyshyn heard complaints and concerns from every direction this winter - from those who wanted the roads shut down under a Level 3, and from others fed up with being home-bound at other times when the restriction was imposed.
"Believe me, many, many people call me and give me their opinion of what the snow level should be," Wasylyshyn said.
Drawn up by the Buckeye State Sheriff's Association, the snow emergency levels are intended to give information on the general condition of roadways, not just whether they're open or closed, he said, though there is little difference between the first and second levels.
Wasylyshyn said he personally drives not rural roads but main thoroughfares - county roads, state highways and city streets - to ensure that they are impassable to most before imposing a Level 3. And in doing that, he supposes whether someone in a car could travel safety, rather than in his SUV.
"If those are passable, you can get from Point A to Point B - now you may be going 10 miles per hour, you may be going 15 miles per hour, but you can physically get down the road - I'm not going to take the privilege away from people to go places," he said.
Many in Wood County became upset this winter when they heard in advance at what times Sheriff John Tharp would adjust the snow emergency in Lucas County. Wasylyshyn said he didn't project those changes because they should be made in real time.
"I'm not a forecaster, and it's not conditions of the future. It's what they are now," he said, noting that Lucas County's predictions made things difficult for surrounding counties.
"I'm not going to do that because, believe it or not, sometimes forecasters are wrong."
Wasylyshyn said Level 3 emergencies are reserved for the worst situations, most often generated by a mix of poor weather conditions. A foot of snow won't always result in a Level 3, he said, while a fraction of that accumulation can be much more dangerous if met with high winds.
The toughest determinations, Wasylyshyn said, come when the highest emergency level might only be necessary for a few hours. He recalled a day this winter when Gary Britten, superintendent of the county highway garage, said he would pull plow trucks from the roads but send drivers back out when visibility improved at daybreak in just a few hours.
"The question is, do I go to a Level 3 for two hours," Wasylyshyn said. "I chose not to, maybe I should have, I don't know. It's one of those where it was a really tough call.
"It really changes how a lot of entities react. When you do a Level 3, there are factories that literally shut down. There are a lot of people that effect a lot of our economy in this county, which again, is done out of safety's sake but it's also the practical side."
Wasylyshyn said in determining the emergency level, he confers with Britten, Brad Gilbert, county emergency management director, and the garage superintendent of the Ohio Department of Transportation. Unless he sees impassable roads for himself or hears of poor road or weather conditions from those people, he allows county residents to make their own decisions as to whether their travel is necessary during severe weather.
"Short of that, I want to leave the right to the people to put on their big-boy pants, their big-girl pants, and decide, 'Can I handle the snow out there?' Because some of us do better in the snow than others."

Last Updated on Monday, 31 March 2014 11:34

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