As temperatures began to warm Tuesday, officials across Lorain County started looking for places to stash all the piles of snow.
With the potential to hit 50 degrees later this week, getting those piles away from buildings and housing developments becomes all the more critical due to the very real threat of melting and flooding.
Avon Mayor Bryan Jensen said crews are working to clear catch basins to ensure proper drainage when the snow begins to melt, with an emphasis near housing developments where flooding could be more prevalent.
“We’re a bit nervous because the piles are so high,” said Jensen after Monday’s storm, which dumped 6 to 7 inches of snow on the county.
According to the National Weather Service, the Cleveland Hopkins Airport has received a total of 64.7 inches of snowfall this year, which is 17.7 inches above normal.
Frank Kieltyka, meteorologist with the National Weather Service, anticipated a flood watch or warning later this week as temperatures reach the upper 40s Thursday, melting the accumulation from Monday’s storm into the early-morning hours Tuesday.
Keiltyka said there is a potential for some rainfall and thunderstorms Thursday as well.
Todd Danielson, chief executive of Avon Lake Municipal Utilities, encouraged residents to prepare for the warmer weather by moving large snow piles away from their homes and making sure that their sump pumps work properly.
“It’s always wise to keep stuff off of your basement floor,” he said.
Danielson said workers at the city’s water plant are prepared for potential flooding with recent updates to the sewer lines to keep clean water out of the sewers.
Karen Davis, the county’s special projects director, said county workers have been forced to relocate snow from the parking deck that sits next to the Lorain County Administration Building.
She said if too much snow builds up on the top floor of the garage, it can cause problems. That means workers basically plow the snow off the top of the garage onto a large pile at the bottom, but there’s been so much snow, it can’t all stay there.
“We have to take it away so we can create a new mound, otherwise the mound would just be out of control,” Davis said.
The snow is loaded into a dump truck and taken to land outside the old J.C. Penney Building in downtown Elyria, she said.
Moving snow around Elyria is not easy, Safety Service Director Mary Siwierka said.
“There are only so many places we can put the snow so we really don’t move it around much,” she said. “We clear the parking lots as much as possible — moving the snow as far back as we can.”
Siwierka said snow on streets is plowed to the sides and she knows residents would like to see it moved, but logistically it can’t be.
“It’s just too labor-intensive. You have to get a backhoe, dump truck and driver, and that is very costly,” she said.
Vermilion Mayor Eileen Bulan said the city’s crews, for now, are just piling the snow up on street corners. The hope is that it’ll melt and do so without flooding, she said.
In North Ridgeville, city officials reported they too were running out of places to move snow.
“I live on a cul-de-sac as do a lot of people, and there’s no place left for the snow to go except front yards,” Safety-Service Director Jeffry Armbruster said during Monday night’s City Council meeting.
Armbruster estimated piles of snow had reached 10 feet near his driveway as he urged caution by residents to double check for neighbors backing out of driveways who may be obscured from view by snow piles.
“We’ve had requests from people to truck the snow out of town, and that‘s something we’ve never done,” Armbruster said.
“Hopefully it melts soon and fairly fast,” Armbruster added.
A few minutes later, City Engineer Scott Wangler said he preferred the snow melted more gradually with predictions of a warm-up by the weekend.
“We’ve basically got two inches of water waiting to melt now, but the ground is frozen and can’t absorb it,” Wangler said as he took note of “the biggest threat for mayhem” looks to be Thursday and Friday when melting snow could bring the risk of flooding.
Mayor David Gillock reported the city should have enough road salt to last the rest of the winter thanks in part to conservative use of existing supplies.
Gillock said the city saved $160,000 by cutting its order of salt in half from 8,000 to 4,000 tons for the winter.
“We salt pretty liberally on main streets (such as Center Ridge Road, Avon-Belden, and Route 10) but we only do curves, hills and intersections on secondary roads,” Gillock said.
Side streets are plowed but not salted.
The city knows it will not be getting any more salt after learning that the state received no bids when it recently sought to purchase an additional 150,000 tons of salt, according to Gillock.
The city has also saved on salt usage by supplementing it with ClearLane, a more costly product that melts ice at lower temperatures and which adheres better to road surfaces than road salt.
Lorain County Emergency Management Director Tom Kelley said it was too early to tell on Tuesday whether the county will be see flooding brought on by higher temperatures melting snow and rain forecasted for Thursday, something that could create issues.
“The problem is you’re going to couple the snowmelt in there,” he said.
Kelley said that roughly 10 inches of snow on the ground is equal to one inch of rain and there’s more than a foot of snow on the ground.
“It could be swampy,” he said. “It’s going to take awhile for this ground to dry out.”
Staff writers Brad Dicken, Chelsea Miller, Lisa Roberson, Steve Fogarty and Anna Merriman contributed to this report.