Delaware County, Ohio – As the snow begins to blanket the roads of Delaware County, residents look to Sheriff Russell Martin to make the crucial decision on issuing a snow emergency level. The safety of the community is at the forefront of of everybody’s mind as the Sheriff evaluates the conditions of the roads and forecasts from the National Weather Service to determine the appropriate level for the County.
Have you ever wondered what the process is behind the Sheriff’s decision to issue a snow emergency level in Delaware County? Is it a decision made arbitrarily by the Sheriff alone or does he consult with his staff and other government agencies? To gain insight into this process, we reached out to Tracy Whited, the Public Information Officer of the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office, who was able to give us a peek behind the curtain to the process of how Sheriff Martin makes this important decision.
According to Whited, the patrol deputies are a key component of the decision-making process. “Our patrol deputies spend 95% of their shift out on the roadways, so we get real-time road conditions reports from them. During a weather event, our policy requires that deputies provide these reports every two hours, or more frequently, based on the severity of the storm,” she said.
But the Sheriff’s Office doesn’t rely solely on the reports of their own staff. They also consult with partners at ODOT, the Delaware County Post of the State Highway Patrol, the County Engineer’s Office, and township and municipality frontline workers, as well as other local law enforcement agencies and sometimes school districts whose transportation folks are also out on the roads.
Whited emphasized that the decision to lower or lift a snow emergency has multiple factors and agencies. “In addition to road conditions, we take into account how traffic is doing, the amount of fender benders or crashes, and the projected forecast from the National Weather Service,” she said.
Residents might wonder why a certain level has been issued when conditions in their area appear to be different. However, the Sheriff’s Office is monitoring road conditions on 459 square miles of roadways throughout the County, and they “err on the side of caution” to ensure the safety of all residents.
Whited continued “By law, a level is issued/lifted for the entire County. With as large as Delaware is, sometimes the conditions might be pretty decent in the southern end of the County, whereas the central and northern parts of the County have much worse and dangerous road conditions.”
According to Ohio Attorney General Opinion 86-023, the sheriff of a county has the authority to declare a snow emergency and temporarily close county and township roads within their jurisdiction for the preservation of public peace. And, Attorney General Opinion 97-015 allows the sheriff to close state and municipal roads.
The Snow Emergency Classifications in Delaware County are as follows:
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.
In Delaware County, Ohio, The ultimate goal of Sheriff Martin is to ensure the safety of the entire County, “This decision is never made in a vacuum – nor lightly” Whited said .
You can monitor local snow emergency levels on the Delaware County Sheriff’s Facebook page, Twitter feed, and of course the Delaware County Sheriffs Office at https://sheriff.co.delaware.oh.us.