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December 26, 2012

DODGING THE FLAKES:Police agencies report accidents, but area avoids worst of weather; other parts of state hit hard



Indiana residents largely heeded warnings to stay home Wednesday as a rare blizzard swirled across the state, dumping a foot of wind-whipped snow on southern areas and creating harsh conditions for motorists who did venture out.

The heaviest snowfall amounts — about a foot of wet snow — fell from about Vincennes in Southwestern Indiana across South-Central Indiana through the Bloomington and Nashville areas, according to the National Weather Service.

The storm quickly dropped several inches of snow in some areas, including 3 inches in an hour in the Indianapolis area Wednesday morning. The storm produced sustained winds of 25 to 30 mph, and gusts of up to 40 mph that just barely made the storm a blizzard, weather service meteorologist John Kwiatkowski said.

“The way I’ve been describing it is as a low-end blizzard, but that’s sort of like saying a small Tyrannosaurus rex,” Kwiatkowski said.

The Indianapolis weather office reported 7.3 inches of snow by late Wednesday afternoon — the heaviest amount since a January 2009 storm dumped about a foot of snow on the capital — and little additional accumulation was expected, fellow meteorologist Dave Tucek said.

The blizzard warning that had covered the southern two-thirds of the state was lifted by mid-afternoon as the storm system mostly pushed east of the state. Five Southeastern Indiana counties remained under a blizzard warning, however, into Wednesday evening.

Up to 12 inches of snow buried Knox and Greene counties in Southwestern Indiana, prompting Greene County officials to close all county roads except to emergency service and private health care workers.

Some motorists risked venturing out and ran into trouble. About 40 vehicles became stuck for a few hours Wednesday morning on Ind. 37 between Bloomington and Martinsville when they couldn’t make it up an ice-covered hill, said First Sgt. Dennis Kirkman of the state police’s Bloomington district.

“There’s always people who don’t pay attention or who’ve got four-wheel drive and think that they’re immune to everything,” Kirkman said.

Schools and many businesses were already closed for Christmas break, and many state and local government offices told nonessential employees to stay home.

In Indianapolis, most businesses and restaurants were closed because of the storm, but a few motorists crept along streets filled with drifts and lumps of snow. Roadside ditches were littered with cars that had slid off or were involved in accidents.

The storm was welcomed at Southern Indiana’s ski slopes.

Lauren Grenier, whose husband is the general manager of Paoli Peaks about 90 miles south of Indianapolis, said the half foot of snow forecast for the resort was certain to boost business in the days ahead.

“There’s a small blizzard going on down here right now,” she said. “This is good news for us.”

Chip Perfect of Perfect North Slopes said the storm is also expected to dump a half-foot of snow on the Lawrenceburg-area resort in Southeastern Indiana. Perfect said the storm, like all snowstorms, would keep some people away at first.

“The first day of a snowstorm it tends to reduce the crowd, but it’ll be on the ground and it will on the ground in people’s minds for the rest of the week, so each day we’ll build and for us the timing’s good,” he said.

Nationwide, the powerful winter storm system pounded the nation’s midsection Wednesday and headed toward the Northeast, where people braced for the high winds and heavy snow that disrupted holiday travel, knocked out power to thousands of homes and were blamed in at least six deaths.

Hundreds of flights were canceled or delayed, scores of motorists got stuck on icy roads or slid into drifts, and blizzard warnings were issued amid snowy gusts of 30 mph that blanketed roads and windshields, at times causing whiteout conditions.

The system, which spawned Gulf Coast region tornadoes on Christmas Day and a historic amount of snow in Arkansas, pushed through the Upper Ohio Valley and headed toward the Northeast. Forecasts called for 12 to 18 inches of snow inland from western New York to Maine starting late Wednesday and into Thursday and tapering off into a mix of rain and snow closer to the coast, where little accumulation was expected in such cities as New York and Boston.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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