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Central Ohio is bracing for a fresh wallop of snow only days after another winter storm last weekend dropped a few inches of snow around the Columbus area.
Here's what you need to know about the winter storm, its timing and impact:
What is a winter weather advisory?
Central Ohio is under a winter weather advisory from midnight until 1 p.m. Wednesday. A winter weather advisory is issued whenever one or more of the following is expected: Snow of 3 to 5 inches in 12 hours, sleet accumulation up to 1/4 inch, freezing rain in combination with sleet and/or snow, or blowing snow.
How much snow is Columbus getting?
Between two to four inches of snow is expected to fall between midnight Tuesday and 1 p.m. Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service in Wilmington. Much of central Ohio, including Franklin County, will be under a winter weather advisory during those hours, with snow possibly changing to sleet or an icy drizzle mid- to late-morning.
The National Weather Service is now also warning about the possibility of gusting winds on Wednesday afternoon and evening, with wind speeds possibly reaching up to 32 miles per hour.
[6:10 PM] We're all focused on the expected heavy snow during Wed morning's commute, but wind gusts in the warm air ahead of the approaching low pressure will produce gusty southerly winds Wed afternoon/evening. Stay up to date with the latest forecast at https://t.co/82d3L0D65e pic.twitter.com/k3m7PXphlZ
— NWS Wilmington OH (@NWSILN) January 24, 2023
However, the NWS is forecasting that communities northwest of Columbus, such as Marysville, could have snowfall rates of an inch an hour or greater overnight into Wednesday with total snowfall up to a half-foot.
The NWS said it has high confidence in its predicted snowfall totals for areas along and northwest of I-71, and less confidence for areas southeast of the interstate.
When will it start to snow?
Snow is expected to start falling around 1 a.m. Wednesday and continue until around 10 a.m. The snow is then expected to transition to sleet and drizzle, potentially causing icy roadways, according to James Gibson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington.
Temperatures are expected to slowly rise from around 28 degrees overnight to a high Wednesday afternoon of around 41 degrees, then fall again Wednesday night, Gibson said.
"You're going to have all that water from melting snow and the rain, and then it freezes again," he said.
Early Thursday morning, with temperatures again below freezing, the area could get a light dusting of new snow atop the freezing standing water, making travel tricky again, Gibson said. Off and on snow showers are then expected to linger throughout the day Thursday, he said.
What will the commute be like in Columbus?
The timing of the snow could prove problematic, especially for commuters and local school districts, their students and parents.
You can expect roads to be a little dicey anytime it snows. The Ohio Department of Transportation, Franklin and other area counties, and cities and municipalities like Columbus will have crews out working to clear and salt roads. Franklin County Sheriff Dallas Baldwin, and other county sheriffs in central Ohio, may decide to issue a snow emergency should road conditions deteriorate.
"The Wednesday morning commute will be very challenging for most of Ohio. Plan ahead. If you can avoid travel, please do," the Ohio Department of Transportation tweeted.
HEADS UP: The Wednesday morning commute will be very challenging for most of Ohio. Plan ahead. If you can avoid travel, please do. If you must travel, check https://t.co/ulNKKYt2ib, allow plenty of travel time, go slow, and give us room to work. #ODOTwinter pic.twitter.com/vviLzV6Pci
— Ohio Dept of Transportation (@ODOT_Statewide) January 24, 2023
Mayor Ginther: Columbus 'preparing for the worst'
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said Tuesday night that based on what he has read, the city "may have three different seasons in one day" on Wednesday.
“Looks like we may get a few curveballs here in the next day or so," Ginther said at a media event called to tout the city's preparation for snow removal. "We're, as a team, kind of preparing for the worst."
Ginther said the city was responding to significant public criticism about its snow removal performance last year with changes to its snow removal operations that include giving more priority to feeder streets from residential areas to main streets and roads, and by having more drivers — whom he repeatedly referred to as "snow warriors" — available and ready for snow removal.
At least 70 city trucks were on the road beginning Tuesday night to prepare for snowfall, said Scott Tourville, infrastructure management administrator with the city Department of Public Service.
“We are taking an aggressive approach to make sure we're prepared for what may come, whether that's all snow, a little bit of snow and then the whole kitchen sink — you know sleet, freezing rain, rain — so we are fully prepared for anything that may come,” Tourville said.
Part of the strategy includes enlisting auxiliary snow removal personnel, Tourville said. Employees from other departments in the city have volunteered to receive over a dozen hours of training to operate smaller snow removal trucks that don’t require additional licensing. As many as two dozen auxiliaries may assist in snow removal of priority two and three streets.
Columbus has also upgraded more than 250 miles of street from priority three to priority two, meaning they will receive treatment and more complete plowing, rather than just basic plowing.
Will schools in the Columbus-area be delayed or closed?
Whether schools are delayed or closed Wednesday will be a decision up to each individual school district or schools, which will notify students and parents through texts, automated calls, websites and/or other means.
Marysville Exempted Village Schools, which is in the area expected to get up to a half-foot of snow, had announced Tuesday night it would be closed Wednesday along with Buckeye Central Schools. Dozens of other Columbus-area charter, preparatory and independent schools had also announced they would be closed or on two-hour delays Wednesday.
Columbus City Schools, the state's largest school district with about 47,000 students attending more than 100 schools, provides bus service to some 36,000 district and charter and parochial school students. As of Tuesday night, the district had not made any decisions about delays or cancellations for Wednesday morning.
"Our operations team and the interim superintendent will continue to monitor weather forecasts and road conditions throughout the evening (Tuesday) and early (Wednesday) morning. We’ll notify students, staff, and the public as soon as a decision is made regarding the status of classes tomorrow," the district said Tuesday night on its website.
For frequently asked questions about how Columbus City Schools' makes decisions about delaying or cancelling school, visit the district's website at https://www.ccsoh.us/Page/11217.
Monroe Trombly covers breaking and trending news.
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Central Ohio and Columbus weather forecast as snow moves in