UPDATED 9 A.M. TUESDAY
As of this morning, Johnson County is under a red travel “warning,” the highest level of local travel advisory, which means travel may be restricted to emergency management workers only. While in red, individuals are told to refrain from all travel.
Public safety officials are encouraging folks to stay off the roads unless they absolutely have to travel.
“Many county roads are still impassable due to drifting,” the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office said in a post. “Please be patient.”
UPDATED 4 P.M. MONDAY
Johnson County is under a travel “watch” through Tuesday morning.
Most of the state is under some sort of travel advisory. Johnson County is in the orange, which means conditions are threatening to the safety of the public.
During a “watch,” only essential travel, such as to and from work or in emergency situations, is recommended, and emergency action plans should be implemented by businesses, schools, government agencies and other organizations, according to the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.
Nearby Bartholomew, Brown and Morgan counties are also in “orange.” Marion and Shelby counties are in “yellow,” which means routine travel or activities may be restricted in areas because of a hazardous situation, and individuals should use caution or avoid those areas.
Due to the severe weather, the town marshal in Prince’s Lakes restricted travel to emergency personnel only.
The town released the following statement Monday afternoon: “Please stay off the roads unless it is an emergency. Town crews and the Marshal may not be able to assist if you get stuck on the roads. Please contact the Johnson County Emergency Center at 317-346-6336 in the event you do get stuck and need assistance.”
Snow plows and salt trucks were hard at work Monday making sure the roads are as clear as possible Tuesday morning, but with nearly a foot of snow expected, local officials are encouraging folks to stay home if possible.
City leaders, public safety officials and street workers are preparing for the biggest storm to hit the area in nearly three years.
Johnson County is expected to get a total of seven to 11 inches of snow, said Crystal Pettet, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Indianapolis.
The heaviest snow was expected to start about 2 p.m. Monday and continue until 9 p.m. A lighter snow was expected to continue overnight and into Tuesday, she said. Winds were expected to pick up significantly during the heavy snowfall, causing snow to blow over roads, and the forecast called for a bitter windchill of -2 degrees.
“It’s a heavy snow, but it’s kind of that fluffier, dry snow, so it will be blowing over and drifting. That will continue through (Tuesday), especially in rural areas,” Pettet said.
The last time central Indiana was under a foot of snow was in March 2018. Temperatures and snow for the month of February in Indianapolis are significantly above average and much higher than last year. The average temperature last February was 33 degrees, and precipitation didn’t hit four inches total, according to the NWS.
Preparing the roads
Dozens of plows and trucks were out Monday across the county paving the way for those who do have to venture out.
Greenwood deployed 20 trucks, and planned to treat every city road at least twice in the next 24 hours, Mayor Mark Myers said Monday morning. The city street department was well-prepared with enough salt, and other departments will pitch in to help by driving plow trucks, he said.
“We are ready and waiting,” Myers said.
Franklin has about the same number of of trucks, between the city street, parks and sewer departments, Mayor Steve Barnett said. Crews were set to work 24/7 Monday and Tuesday in 12-hour shifts. The city has tons of salt stocked up to last the rest of the year, even with this week’s snow storm.
Franklin’s plan was to have the roads cleared Tuesday so residents could continue with business as usual, he said.
“That’s our intent, to be out all night,” Barnett said Monday afternoon.
The Johnson County Highway Department will also have trucks out all night on 12-hour shifts plowing county roads. The county just got a new shipment of salt this weekend, and it is prepared to keep the roads as clear as possible, said Luke Mastin, highway director.
But with the high winds causing snow to drift, it could take a few days beyond Tuesday for the roads to be cleared entirely, he said.
“The forecast snowfall is already a concern. Wind can turn even small amounts of snow into blowing and drifting snow that is difficult to keep up with,” Mastin said. “We’ll have to continue to fight through blowing snow and deep drifts through Tuesday and maybe longer.”
Ready for emergencies
The Bargersville Community Fire Department is more prepared than most for the unexpected, said Mike Pruitt, deputy fire chief.
Pruitt this weekend sent out messages to the community asking for volunteers with snowmobiles and ATVs to assist with emergency calls if the snow is too deep for fire trucks are ambulances, and the response was overwhelming.
As of Monday morning, 40 people had responded offering equipment and help.
“Having those resources in the community is huge, especially when you’re in a rural community like ours, because sometimes you can’t access things,” Pruitt said.
It wouldn’t be the first time the department has had to use snowmobiles to respond to emergencies during a snow storm, he said.
Bargersville Fire’s snow plow was up and running by noon Monday to go on calls with ambulances. Crews were also asked to plan ahead and, if possible, get to the station early, before their shifts, to avoid the worst parts of of the snow, Pruitt said.
The department is prepared for any emergency situation, such as someone needing help getting their medication during the storm, or vehicle accidents due to the snow.
“You got to plan ahead for that stuff,” Pruitt said. “The last thing you want to do is find yourself standing in a snow storm thinking, ‘Well, I didn’t think about that.’”
Staying safe during the storm
City and public safety officials had one resounding message for Johnson County residents: Stay home and inside if possible.
“If people for some reason choose to go out and travel, there’s always a higher risk for accidents,” Pruitt said.
If you do have to go out, Barnett and Myers wanted to remind residents to be patient with street department crews and slow down while driving, they said.
“Be cautious when going out. I saw someone today fly by one of our plows on the street,” Myers said. “Careless driving is going to get people hurt.”
Also, if venturing out, people should be sure to dress appropriately at all times. Wear layers with coats, hats and gloves, Pruitt said. For those who have to shovel their driveways, take breaks and stay hydrated, he said.
“Don’t go out and shovel the whole thing at once. Go out, shovel a little, go back inside to take a break,” Pruitt said. “Take breaks, take your time … and if you don’t have to go anywhere, don’t go anywhere.”
WINTER STORM SAFETY TIPS
Here is a look at some tips to stay safe during the winter storm:
- Stay at home and inside as much as possible, if you can.
- Keep pets inside during the storm.
- Check on relatives, neighbors, and friends, particularly if they are elderly or if they live alone.
- Listen to local stations for updated emergency information.
- Make trips outdoors as brief as possible.
- Dress in layers, wearing coats, hats and gloves.
- Take breaks when shoveling your driveway or sidewalk.
- Stay hydrated.
- Watch for hypothermia and frostbite. Hypothermia symptoms include confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering. Frostbite symptoms include numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration, numbness or waxy feeling skin.
- Slow down and keep your distance from other cars.
- Check your vehicle emergency supplies kit and replenish if necessary.
- Let someone know your destination, your route, and when you expect to arrive.
If you get stranded
- Stay in the car and wait for help. Do not leave the vehicle to search for assistance unless help is visible within 100 yards.
- Display a trouble sign to indicate you need help. Hang a brightly colored cloth (preferably red) on the radio antenna and raise the hood after snow stops falling.
- Run the engine occasionally to keep warm. Turn on the engine for about 10 minutes each hour.
Sources: American Red Cross and Bargersville Community Fire Department