City Environment Here’s what Athens’ Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 snow emergency alerts mean By Maggie Prosser Posted on January 19, 2018 7 min read 0 2 590 What exactly a snow emergency is and what it means can be confusing. Screenshots via Twitter. With warmer temperatures on the horizon, it might be easy to forget about the possibility of more winter precipitation. But winter is not over just yet. What exactly a snow emergency is and what it means can be confusing. Let’s break it down. Winter Storm Inga raged Tuesday as a burst of arctic air hit the East Coast and dropped a half-inch of snow on Athens, creating a Level 2 snow emergency. Snow emergency alerts are a categorical system designed to inform the public of road conditions and limit travel for safety, according to the Athens County Emergency Management Agency. The system designates three classifications of snow emergencies: Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3. A Level 1 snow emergency indicates blowing snow, as well as icy and hazardous roadways. During a Level 1 snow emergency, motorists are encouraged to drive cautiously. When conditions intensify, motorists should not drive unless necessary. This is classified as a Level 2. “Snow emergency Level 1 and 2 are only advisories to drivers that road conditions in the county have been affected by winter weather and could be hazardous,” Dan Pfeiffer, the Athens County Emergency Management Agency Director, said. “If you choose to travel you should use caution.” At a Level 3, roadways are closed for non-emergency personnel, and those that choose to drive may be subject to arrest. Athens County has issued one Level 3 snow emergency this year. “A Level 3 snow emergency is only declared when it is necessary to close roadways for public safety and to allow crews to clear snow without additional vehicle traffic on the roadways,” Pfeiffer said. Ohio Revised Code sections 311.07 and 311.08 delegate declaring snow emergencies to the Athens County Sheriff, Rodney Smith. “Our only focus is to let people know what the road conditions are and how severe they are, or if they are getting better,” Smith said. He advised that people should take extra precautions when driving under a snow alert. “If you go out to drive, first and foremost you need to give yourself some time to get to your destination,” he said. “Secondly, give some space between you and the other vehicle.” Smith stressed the importance of avoiding driving near or passing snow plows. “Don’t crowd the plow,” Smith said. “You have got to slow down and use caution.” Drivers are not the only people that need to pay attention to snow emergencies. Students and pedestrians should watch for cars and only cross roads when signaled, according to the sheriff. “When you’re walking and you see a car, chances are if they hit their brakes they are just going to go sliding, and moreover, sliding out of control,” Smith said. “They could go left, they could go right. I would just certainly be aware that there is snow on the ground and there are cars and sometimes they aren’t using caution and not thinking about a college student walking around the street and their safety.” The weather this year has been atypical, according to Smith. “I think this winter is particularly bad because it’s very cold, colder than normal, and we’ve had a lot of ice which is hard to melt when it gets that cold,” he said. Brandon Peloquin, the Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the Wilmington, Ohio National Weather Service Forecast Office said this winter is a combination of storm patterns and cold fronts. “The last few weeks we have been in an active weather pattern that has favored storminess, and it just so happens that we’ve had cold air come down from Canada at the same time as storms have moved through,” Peloquin said. “So the precipitation has mainly been in the form of snow the last few weeks.” There is hope for warmer weather on the horizon. Peloquin said that this weekend and early next week will bring rain and higher temperatures.