February 20, 2003
front page
more news
ad information
contact information


Snow storm brings flurry of activity

Salomé García-Halpin, peaking through a hole in the snow fort she built Monday with her parents, Meg Halpin and Nance Parent, in their front yard on Orton Road.

It started snowing Friday evening. And kept snowing and snowing and snowing. By Monday morning, Yellow Springs was covered with a blanket of snow.

All weekend, vehicle traffic was minimal and pedestrians were free to walk in the middle of the streets. The hill at Gaunt Park was packed with sledders. Snow forts sprang up all over town. Local schools canceled classes. Many downtown stores were steadily busy. Cross-country skiers were out in full force. Snow plowers and Village and Miami Township personnel just tried to keep up with the snow.

In the end, the National Weather Service reported that 10 to 12 inches of powdery, flaky snow fell on the town.

Saturday morning local roads were white and quiet. Most residents adhered to the level 3 snow emergency issued by the Greene County Sheriff’s Department, which closed roadways to non-emergency personnel. The ban lasted until Monday afternoon, when the advisory was downgraded to level 2, which advised drivers to travel with “extreme caution,” according to the Yellow Springs Police Department.

No weather related accidents were reported in the village all weekend. “People in the township paid attention to the snow emergency and stayed home,” Miami Township Fire Chief Colin Altman said.

The Village road crew, which has already had a busy winter, lost track of time, plowing day and night to keep the roads clear.

Two shifts of crew members worked around the clock from Saturday to Monday, crew leader Harold “Dunie” Hamilton Jr. said.

Greg Jones, a member of the Village Parks and Recreation Department, cleared out the parking lot in Kieth’s Alley Monday morning. Jones and other Village and Miami Township employees worked around the clock last weekend to keep local streets and parking lots clear of snow.

A two-man first shift began around 5 a.m., and a four-man second shift took over at 5 p.m. the same day. They tried to keep intersections and the main roads cleared, though a limited salt supply was coming from the Greene County engineer, Hamilton said.

Village personnel cleared the snow from downtown, starting at 2 a.m. on Wednesday, Public Works crew leader Mike Applin said.

“It’s been pretty rough getting two inches here and three inches here, and it’s been going on for quite some time,” he said on Tuesday.

Hamilton said that the blizzard of 1978 was the last time he remembered doing as much work to clear the roads. The snow accumulation was about the same, he said, though this weekend’s winds were not as powerful.

Independent snow shovelers were out in full force all weekend as well.

Chris Entler, who along with his wife, Jessica Wyant, owns Jessica’s Landscape and Gardening, formerly Euphorbia, likened his work to a fireman’s job of putting out a raging fire. Entler said that they had gotten little sleep trying to stay on top of the snow that just kept falling.

“When we haven’t been working we’ve been watching the radar,” Entler said. “It’s been a solid responsibility for us watching the weather and planning the best way to move the snow.”

Alban Holyoke cleared snow from the Little Art Theatre marquee last Sunday, with his father, Andy Holyoke, watching.

Marco Comegys had trouble getting his snow plow started at the beginning of the weekend, so he was up until 4 a.m. Tuesday morning finishing up residents’ driveways. By 7 a.m. he was back on the road to beat back the drifts that rose as high as six feet on some farm properties in Cedarville, he said.

In between snow-plowing jobs he helped tow three cars out of the snow over the weekend, he said, reluctantly accepting remuneration for his services.

On three hours sleep Tuesday, he was full of spunk and energy.

“I love snow plowing, you get your CD player and some hot cocoa,” he said. “I go for a luxury plow, the cab’s all warm.”

A group of students got into the act and used their holiday to shovel residential driveways. Eighth grader Jordan Lininger and seventh grader Kumar Jensen were part of a group that made $100 shoveling five drives in the south part of town on Monday afternoon. Though business was good, by 2 p.m. their energy was flagging, and they were headed home for a nap.

Still, the snow kept falling, and many offices and businesses closed up early for the long weekend.

U.S. Bank closed at 10 a.m. on Saturday, and the Yellow Springs Credit Union did the same 15 minutes later. The Yellow Springs Library never opened last weekend.

The Little Art Theatre canceled its late show Saturday night and all of its screenings Sunday.


Other downtown businesses, including Ohio Silver and Glen Garden Gifts, also closed because of the weather.

Deaton’s Do it Best Hardware closed at 1:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon because of weather, though shovel and salt business was booming Friday, store clerk Kathy McLemore said, as people prepared for the barrage to come. The hardware store sold all of its 25 25-pound bags of salt within an hour of delivery Friday, and then preceded to sell out of shovels as well.

“If I had 50 shovels I would have sold them all and we could have closed up for the week,” McLemore said.

By Monday, when the roads were better and the store opened back up, customers were buying sleds and birdseed.

Yellow Springs schools canceled school Tuesday. The YSHS girls basketball tournament game was rescheduled for tonight (Thursday). The high school boys tournament game on Tuesday, Feb. 18, was not affected by the weather.

Even Antioch College got quiet when classes were canceled Monday. Antioch University McGregor was closed Saturday and Monday as well.

The post office delivered 60 to 70 percent of Saturday’s mail, but the snow piled on the sides of the roads prevented carriers from accessing freestanding boxes, acting postmaster Greg Turner said.

There are always two sides to a story, especiallay one about snow.

Chris Mucher, the owner of Photoworks/Movieworks, said that he rented four times the normal number of videos or DVD’s on Saturday and Monday.

Tom’s Market kept regular hours and attracted business equal to a pre-holiday week, manager Dave Trollinger said. Dairy manager Sonny Wallen said that business was “unbelievable,” because people shopped in town for necessities.

People stayed in town for their coffee too, as witnessed by bustling traffic at The Emporium and Dino’s Cappuccinos.

“I’m amazed. I thought we’d be dead,” Dino’s employee Eric Brown said at 9 a.m. Saturday morning, when, although the streets were empty, 12 people crowded around the coffeeshop’s small tables sipping their lattes and cappuccinos and comparing snow stories.

Snow covered the patio of Ye Olde Trail Tavern Monday morning, as last weekend’s winter storm cleared.

One by one bundled-up coffee lovers appeared at the door, greeted by Brown, who invited customers to “enjoy the Alberta Clipper.” One regular had concentrated so hard on dressing warmly that he discovered, when it was time to pay, he’d forgotten his wallet. Brown treated him to a coffee.

Since the sidewalks on Xenia Avenue in residential neighborhoods were practically impassable Sunday, residents had to walk into town beside the three-foot snow drifts along the street. They came to pick up supplies for dinner, to walk their dogs, to smell the crisp freshness of new snow.

Marnie Neumann and John Brennan were out with Myra, their white wolf dog, for coffee and a walk in the Glen on Sunday afternoon.

“We’ve been watching too much TV, eating more, sleeping more,” Neumann said. “It’s good because I think people need to slow down more.”

“Are you kidding, this is adventurous!” Brennan said, before they headed on into the snow.

Miami Township resident Cathy Paige also took advantage of the weather conditions and skied into town Sunday on the bikepath from her home on Jackson Road to buy groceries and try out her new cross-country skis.

“It was totally empty, and there was no wind because of the trees,” she said. “There’s just my own ski tracks. It’s beautiful.”

Whether the snow is troublesome or beautiful, it affects everyone at the same time.

“For one or two days we’ve all got the same focus and we know it,” Entler said. “In some ways common problems bring us together as a community. I’ve seen that here, and I think it’s a good thing.”

—Lauren Heaton

Diane Chiddister and Robert Mihalek contributed to this report


Winter is second worst of Yellow Springs career, Armocida says—
When to cancel the school day
When snow falls overnight, the Village and Miami Township plows aren’t the only vehicles out in the early morning darkness. A Dodge Voyager also makes its way through snow, sleet and ice as Tony Armocida, the superintendent of the Yellow Springs schools, checks to see if it’s safe for Yellow Springs children to go to school.
This winter especially, he’s driven many snowy predawn mornings, Armocida said in a recent interview.
“Seems like everyday,” he said with a laugh. Actually, he added, he’s checked the roads about twice a week since Christmas.
This winter school has been canceled three times, including this past Tuesday, and delayed four or five times, Armocida said.
While he could assign other employees to check the weather, Armocida prefers to drive up and down local roads himself. Some superintendents, especially those of larger school districts, delegate the responsibility while superintendents in small districts often do their own checking, he said.
If snow is expected, Armocida sets his alarm for 4:30 a.m. and gets on the road by 5. As well as checking village streets, he circles just outside Yellow Springs, travelling school bus routes on East Enon Road, Hyde Road, Fairfield Pike, Jackson Road, Husted Road and John Bryan Park Road. He checks the amount of snow — more than two or three inches will cause drifting — and looks for icy patches where busses might skid.
“The most serious condition is ice,” he said. “Snow isn’t always a problem, but ice is.”
Armocida said that he doesn’t really mind this part of his job. “If the snow is new it’s beautiful, and I kind of like being out there all alone,” he said. Often, as he drives he listens to weather reports on WHIO, and in the past he enjoyed a BBC broadcast of classic rock and roll on WYSO.
After he returns from his 45-minute drive, Armocida checks in with other area superintendents. While they don’t always make the same decision, he said he finds it helpful to confer with his colleagues who have the same responsibility. Along with snow and ice, he considers the temperature, since extreme cold can be dangerous to children walking to school.
“There’s no magic number” regarding what temperature mandates a closing, Armocida said.
“If everyone else is closing because it’s too cold, probably we’ll go with the majority,” he said.
His weather forecasting responsibility doesn’t end when school begins, and Armocida keeps a TV in his office tuned to the Weather Channel. While it’s difficult to decide whether or not to cancel school before the first bell rings, it’s even more difficult to make the call when bad weather threatens during the school day. If the forecast calls for sending busses home early, Mills Lawn officials attempt to contact all parents to make sure they’ll be home. Otherwise, Armocida said, grade- school-age students are not sent home, although older students might be.
Out of his six winter seasons as Yellow Springs superintendent, this winter is not the worst, Armocida said. He gives that distinction to the winter of 1999, when bad weather repeatedly struck during the school day so that he had to send students home early. Armocida pegs the winter of 2003 as the second worst of his Yellow Springs career.

—Diane Chiddister.