Everything You Wanted To Know About Snow Emergency Classifications, But Were Afraid To Ask.

Snow Emergency Information

 Is there a Snow Emergency?

The snow emergency level for our county is reported by the same news organizations from which you’d learn about school delays and closures. You can also find the snow emergency level online at many places.

What is a Snow Emergency?

Local media might report something like: “Athens County is under a Level 2 Snow Emergency.” What does that mean for you?

The snow emergency level issued by county sheriffs in Ohio is meant to give citizens a sense of roadway conditions, and in some cases, to limit or restrict travel on roadways in the interest of safety. The authority to declare snow emergencies is placed on the county sheriff by Ohio law and, in order to clarify the definition, sheriffs of Ohio’s 88 counties adopted guidelines to be followed when closing highways due to severe weather.

Legal Background

A county sheriff may, pursuant to Ohio Revised Code sections 311.07 and 311.08, declare a snow emergency and temporarily close the state roads and municipal streets within his/her jurisdiction when such action is reasonably necessary for the preservation of the public peace. Ohio Attorney General Opinion 86-023 states that a Sheriff of a County may declare a snow emergency and temporarily close County and Township roads; Ohio Attorney General’s Opinion 97-015 (pdf), issued April 1, 1997, concluded that this authority includes state roads, county and township roads and municipal streets.

Any person who knowingly hampers or fails to obey a lawful order of the sheriff declaring a snow emergency and temporarily closing highways, roads and/or streets within his/her jurisdiction may be subject to criminal prosecution under Ohio Revised Code Section 2917.13, “Misconduct at an emergency” or other applicable law or ordinance.

Snow Emergency Classifications

LEVEL 1: Roadways are hazardous with blowing and drifting snow. Roads may also be icy. Motorists are urged to drive very cautiously.

LEVEL 2: 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.

LEVEL 3: All roadways are closed to non-emergency personnel. No one should be driving during these conditions unless it is absolutely necessary to travel or a personal emergency exists. All employees should contact their employer to see if they should report to work. Those traveling on the roads may subject themselves to arrest.

Drive Cautiously

Remember, it’s impossible to know the condition of every road in the county. These are only guidelines for the majority of roads. If, for example, a Level 1 Snow Emergency is in effect, there may be secondary roads that could be hazardous enough to be rated at level 2 or even possibly level 3.

If there is snow present, you should always assume that the road ahead is worse than the stretch of road you are currently on. In short, drive with extra regard for your speed and those around you especially on curves, hills, and the bridges which usually freeze well before the rest of the roadway. Also give yourself PLENTY of stopping distance especially on icy roads.