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February 5, 2014

Icy reception in Southern Indiana

Yet another winter storm causes travel havoc

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Area schools and businesses closed early Tuesday as another winter storm blew through Southern Indiana, but the travel trouble was caused by a different culprit this time around.

The region has experienced a few waves of bitter cold, and Sunday saw significant snow. On Tuesday, ice was definitely not nice to Clark and Floyd counties, as frozen pellets began falling just before 5 p.m., leading to treacherous roads, and municipalities pleading with drivers to stay home.

A quarter of an inch of ice was in the forecast for the counties just north of the Ohio River.

By about 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sellersburg had declared a state of emergency, and Floyd County had issued a travel advisory. Area school districts canceled after-school activities, and public meetings were called off.

Indiana State Police Cpl. Carey Huls said Tuesday evening that troopers from the Sellersburg post prepared in advance for the storm, but remained on standby.

“We are playing it by ear, just watching The Weather Channel like everybody else,” Huls said.

He said depending on how dangerous the roads become, troopers from the detectives division may be assigned to work post operations, so more active units can be on the roadways.

Huls said troopers will respond to a vehicle-emergency call anywhere in the county, but the agency typically responds to accidents on area intestates.

If the weather causes an upsurge in accidents, troopers will transfer from 10-and-a-half-hour shifts to 12-hour shifts.

Huls said ISP plans to remain on high alert for possible weather-related accidents until 4 p.m. Wednesday, nine hours after the scheduled end of the winter storm warning was issued for the area.

While troopers are prepared to render services, Huls said motorists should also take precautions.

“Use common sense. Drive slowly. Pay attention to the weather before getting on the road, and give yourself extra time to reach your destination,” Huls advised.

LOCAL RESPONSE

New Albany Street Commissioner Mickey Thompson said that though salt supplies are running low, he didn’t anticipate Tuesday’s storm would totally deplete the city’s stockpile.

“It all depends on how hard and how long it ices,” Thompson said. “We’ll keep hitting it to try to keep the roads clean and keep the main roads clear.”

Thompson said crews began applying salt to roads Tuesday afternoon in anticipation of the storm.

Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore said Tuesday afternoon all essential city crew were working and will work until around early morning to keep conditions safe.

The city is getting low on salt for the roads because of the number of winter storms this season. At the city council meeting on Monday, Les Merkley, corporation attorney, said Jeffersonville only has 1,000 tons of salt left — enough for two more major winter storms.

To preserve salt, Moore said the city laid a brine on the roads hours before the snow hit today. A brine is a liquid material that pretreats the roads and must be laid when the roads are dry so that it doesn’t wash away.

“This is the first time this winter we’ve been able to put the brine out before the snow,” Moore said, adding that the main roads have been salted. “Hopefully that will treat some of the ice.”

STATE ROADS

State highways and interstates in Southeast Indiana also were pretreated with brine, according to an Indiana Department of Transportation news release. A full call-out for Seymour subdistricts at Falls City/Sellersburg, Madison, Aurora, Columbus and Bloomington was scheduled between mid- and late-afternoon Tuesday. In addition to INDOT salt/plow trucks, crew cabs with plow blades were being dispatched to rest areas and weigh scale locations as well as some interstate highway ramps to assist with clearing, the release stated.

Localized road closures and county travel advisories were possible — depending on traffic and severity of the weather. Follow INDOT social media at Facebook.com/INDOTSoutheast or Twitter @INDOTSoutheast. Verify travel plans at trafficwise.in.gov.

POWER WORRIES

Duke Energy has detailed storm response plan in place for severe weather, the company said via email.

“On Monday, we began taking steps for possible severe weather, including notifying crews to be prepared, stocking vehicles with supplies needed for system repairs, fueling trucks, etc.,” said spokeswoman Angeline Protegere. “Our customer service center also made sure they would have adequate staff to handle additional calls. As with any weather system that may impact our service area, our meteorologists are closely monitoring the weather conditions.”

The company — which has nearly 800,000 Indiana customers — encourages residents to prepare for severe winter storms by checking their supply of flashlights, batteries, bottled water, nonperishable foods, medicines, etc. Tips can be found at duke-energy.com/indiana/outages/powers-out.asp.

The quickest way for Duke Energy customers to report Indiana power outages is by calling 1-800-343-3525. Outages reported on these lines are routed automatically to those responsible for responding to them, Protegere said.

— News and Tribune Staff Writers Elizabeth Beilman, Matt Koesters, Gary Popp, Daniel Suddeath and Editor Shea Van Hoy contributed to this article.

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