The National Weather Service is moving closer to Defcon 1.

The weather agency’s Cleveland on Monday afternoon issued a winter storm watch for a wide swath of the Buckeye state, including Richland, Ashland, Knox and Crawford counties.

The watch is from Wednesday evening through Friday morning.

Though the path of the powerful winter storm is still in flux, the NWS is now forecasting 1 to 3 inches of snow on Wednesday night and 3 to 7 inches on Thursday.

Other weather experts, including The Weather Channel, are calling for as much as 2 feet of snow.

As if the snow wasn’t enough, it’s likely the area will get a significant ice coating on Wednesday before the temperatures fall and the snow begins.

Richland County EMA Director Joe Petrycki said he has also seen rapidly divergent forecasts.

“These reports are all over the board,” he said Monday afternoon. “The main one I am sticking with is the National Weather Service in Cleveland. But we are preparing like we could get 24 inches of snow and a half-inch of ice.”

Naturally, travel could become difficult when the storm hits in a couple of days. Petrycki’s message is not to wait until the last minute to prepare.

“Now is the time to start preparing for the winter storm that is expected mid-week. Make time before Tuesday evening to gather your supplies such as extra food, extra water, batteries, flashlight, etc.,” he said.

“Fill up your vehicle with gas today or tomorrow and put some blankets, non-perishable food, water, etc. in it just in case you find yourself stranded,” he said.

“Make sure your cell phones are charged and charge them periodically in the event the power goes out,” Petrycki said.

“Lastly, check on your neighbors, especially the elderly to see if they need anything and are unable to pre-plan,” he said.

The local EMA chief said is a great resource to use when planning for various emergencies.

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