Storms dump heaviest snow of the season on Oxford


Photo by Lauren Blitstein

Snow can be fun too, as Miami students Jacob Terwilleger and Meredith Horn can attest as they slide down the Peffer Park hill on makeshift sleds late Wednesday.

Oxford declared a level one snow emergency from noon Monday until noon Tuesday during which it was hit with the heaviest snowfall of the season. 

By 8:21 a.m. Tuesday, six inches of snow had fallen in Oxford, according to the National Weather Service, and the snow continued throughout the day. Another three inches hit the area early Thursday. 

Oxford declared a snow emergency. Miami University closed campus from noon Monday, to 1 p.m. Tuesday, but many classes moved online. Talawanda Public Schools Superintendent, Ed Theroux, announced Monday afternoon that schools would be closed Tuesday and all classes, in-person and remote, were canceled. He had to close the buildings again Thursday, but said learning would be done virtually that day.

The city classifies a level one snow emergency as hazardous, with icy roadways, blowing and drifting snow and urges citizens to drive carefully.

Oxford residents scrape windshields and shovel their vehicles out of the snow after the winter storms this week. Photo by Jamie Santarella

Many in Oxford spent Monday and Tuesday sledding, while other residents got to work on shoveling their driveways and sidewalks and sprinkling salt.

Ace Hardware, 300 S. College Ave., sold out of sleds by Monday afternoon and started selling trash can lids for about $6 instead.

“Right before snowfall we are slammed in here,” said Gavyn Kopcho, cashier at the hardware store. “The past week we’ve been wiped out on ice melt, sleds and snow blowers.”

The store stayed open throughout the Monday/Tuesday storm to provide residents with their snow storm needs.

Police enforce snow emergency routes

When the snow emergency began at noon Monday, the Oxford Police Department (OPD) asked all residents to move their vehicles from designated snow routes. The vehicles that were not moved were ticketed and towed, to allow snow plows to clear the streets.

Miami issued an announcement that university students were allowed to park on the campus lots without the need of a university parking permit, in an effort to clear the roads for the plows. 

Roughly 35 cars were towed this week with some still in police custody as of Thursday.

“It is important to clear the street and give a wide berth for the plows,” said Lt. Lara Fening. 

Fening said she thought the parking division did an amazing job since the severe weather started. 

“I was out of town and when I came back I was driving with my chief and was like, ‘OMG this is great, the roads are so clear,’” Fening said. 

OPD’s parking division normally has two officers, but this past week they were working more than five hours on Presidents’ Day, the Monday holiday they were supposed to have off. Even with the overtime, four more officers were called in to help clear cars off the road. 

By Thursday morning snow had piled up again on cars and driveways throughout Oxford, as seen here on Church Street. Photo by Lauren Blitstein

When the snow emergency ended on Tuesday, cars were allowed to park along snow routes again. Oxford Police said throughout the week that the roads may still be snow covered and slick in some areas and to use caution when driving. 

Nixle is a service used in Oxford to send email and text notifications when there are emergencies or road closures. On Wednesday, police used Nixle to alert drivers to the temporary closing of the intersection of E. Vine and N. Poplar, when a water main broke. Access to McCullough-Hyde Hospital from the North Main Street entrance was limited while the city repaired the break. 

Plows clear roads, but salt supply is dwindling

During the snow emergency this week, cars are forbidden to park along snow emergency routes, like this one along West Chestnut Street, so as not to impede snow plows. Photo by Zach Goetsch

With the busy winter weather, snow plows have been hard at work clearing the streets of snow and ice. 

All that work, however, takes a toll on the amount of salt available to keep the roads ice free until the winter is through.

Joseph Newlin, Oxford finance director, said the city needs about another $75,000 worth of road salt to get through the rest of the year.

“As you can tell from the past two days, we need this purchase,”  he said Wednesday.

Jacob Terwilleger (left) prepares to use the lid from a storage bin to go sledding, while Meredith Horn prefers a laundry basket to sled down the hill at Peffer Park on Wednesday. Photo by Lauren Blitstein

Salt usage and prices have risen across the country as states battle the winter weather, causing some to worry about the availability of road salt in their towns. 

Oxford partners with the Butler County Engineer’s Office with many other communities around the area. The communities leverage their buying power and share a fixed-rate contract on road salt every year. 

The City of Oxford pays about $74 per ton of road salt, Newlin said. 

“The street crew has done a great job plowing the streets,” said Newlin. “Last night when I was out shoveling my driveway, they drove by and gave me a beep.”

Oxford’s homeless population receives shelter 

During the City Council meeting Tuesday, Feb. 16, the Oxford Citizens for Peace & Justice thanked the city for its support of a cold shelter for the homeless in Oxford. 

According to Barbara Caruso, speaking on behalf of OCPJ, there is an emergency project underway to extend the relief of the cold shelter through the end of March. This month, the major need is capacity, as the shelter, housed in a local motel, has been overpopulated due to the extreme cold and amount of snow and ice. 

Through management with the Family Resource Center, OCPJ is collecting funds for this extended relief at the shelter. 

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service is predicting a 70% chance of more snow for the area on Monday.