Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Snowfall dry, fluffy, lovely - and deadly

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Snowstorm photos
Blame the extra snow Tuesday on the "fluff factor."

Byron Webre, chief meteorologist with WLWT-TV Channel 5, said three factors conspired in the atmosphere to star-cross meteorologists and dump an unexpected 3 inches of powder on surprised morning commuters:

The winter storm gained strength as it crossed Illinois and moved into the region.

Strong winds in the upper atmosphere brought the storm to the area sooner than meteorological models indicated it would arrive.

Temperatures fell to 11 degrees just before the storm reached the western edge of the Tristate at 6 a.m., creating more snowflakes from the same amount of water.

Webre said the3 inches of snow Tuesday came from water that would have generated only about one-tenth of an inch of rain.

"The lower temperature created a fluff factor of dry, fluffy snow that piled up quickly," the meteorologist said. "The colder it is, the more snow can drop per ounce of liquid water."

Scott Hickman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington, said there could be more fluff this weekend.

"We'll have a quiet period until Friday," Hickman said. "Then the question is how much warm air will surge into the region. It'll be wet this weekend, but will it be rain or snow? It could be both."

The icy, snowy conditions left one man dead, more than 170 crashes and dozens of minor injuries.

The fatality occurred about 9 a.m. in Covington when a 2000 Isuzu Trooper went over a guardrail on the snow-covered, winding Old Highland Pike. The SUV plunged 50 feet down an embankment, landing upside down in a creek.

Driver Larry Osborn, 61, was partially ejected. The Covington man was pronounced dead at the scene, Covington police said.

A head-on collision occurred on Interstate 275 in Forest Park when a Jeep crossed the median and hit a Ford Escape near Winton Road. Each vehicle had one occupant who had minor injuries, Forest Park Fire Lt. Steve Goetz said. Their names were not released.

Hamilton sheriff's deputies alone responded to 123 crashes, spokesman Steve Barnett said. There were 11 reported injuries, all minor.

Police and rescue crews handled nearly 15 accidents on I-275 in Kentucky.

There were 30 crashes in Clermont County, but no reported injuries. Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers handled at least 10 other crashes.

Emergency dispatchers in Warren County said they were swamped with calls as slick conditions caused at least two tractor-trailers to jackknife in the Middletown area on I-75.

Icy patches sent motorists sliding into ditches and the median, and a fire truck at Snider and Socialville-Foster in the Mason area toppled on its side around 9:40 a.m. No serious injuries were reported there.

E-mail dklepal@enquirer .com

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