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Lucas County sheriff addresses snow emergency questions

Sheriff Mike Navarre took to social media to answer concerns about why Lucas County has not declared the most serious state of emergency even as others did.

TOLEDO, Ohio — As snow totals climb and road conditions deteriorated around the region Wednesday night, many northwest Ohio county sheriffs turned to the state's snow emergency declarations to limit travel.

But even as surrounding counties declared Level 3 emergencies late Wednesday and throughout Thursday morning -- a move that generally restricts travel unless it is for emergency purposes -- Lucas County Sheriff Mike Navarre decided to leave his county's emergency status at Level 1, which only calls for drivers to be cautious because roads are potentially hazardous.

Critics took on the sheriff on social media, prompting the sheriff to respond Thursday morning.

"Many have questioned why Lucas County is still at a Level 1 and not a higher level.  This is a determination made across the State of Ohio by individual County Sheriffs and one that I do not take lightly," Sheriff Navarre wrote.

The 341-square-mile county includes both urban and rural areas with widely varying road conditions, the sheriff said. Declaring a countywide emergency is difficult, he said, because one size does not fit all. 

This has been particularly true during this storm, Navarre said, because while some portions of the county were being hit with heavy snow, other areas were experiencing only light snow or rain Wednesday.

Other sheriffs in more rural portions of northwest Ohio, including those in Seneca, Sandusky and Ottawa counties, had declared Level 3 emergencies by noon Thursday.

The decision to increase the severity of the snow emergency also can affect local businesses and hospitals, Sheriff Navarre said.

"A Level 2 or Level 3 declaration impacts businesses and medical facilities.  It is incumbent upon all employers in Lucas County, both public and private, to make educated decisions that are in the best interest of their employees," he said.

As of mid-day Thursday Navarre noted that most roads in Lucas County were passable, though they all remained slippery and require cautious driving. He urged anyone who could stay home Thursday to do so.

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