SOUTHERN INDIANA — Last week, Punxsutawney Phil gave hope to those who view cold weather as an enemy.
In his annual not-so-scientific experiment, the woodchuck predicted that Americans would enjoy an early spring, with him having seen his shadow on Groundhog Day.
Despite the shadow making an appearance, some of the most wintry weather Southern Indiana has seen all season hit overnight, leaving the area with a coat of snow Friday morning.
The weather made for dangerous conditions on the road. On Friday, one incident on the 7100 block of IN-111, between Ind. 60 and St. Joe Road, affected 12 vehicles. A total of five vehicles were directly involved in the crash, with seven more sliding off the area of the corridor near the Chicken House.
The crash and ensuing cleanup caused the roadway to shut down temporarily, but has since re-opened. No information on injuries has been released.
Indiana State Police Sgt. Carey Huls tweeted out multiple videos from the area of the accident Friday morning. Huls said he had driven down SR 60 from Campbellsburg without issue. But once he got to 111, he said it was a “different story.”
“The roadway is being reported as a sheet of ice through that area,” Huls said in one of the videos.
A follow-up video showed how slush from mixed precipitation had been packed tightly to form patches off ice on the roadway, with Huls warning drivers to be careful while on the road.
Such conditions are more likely when below-freezing temperatures follow periods of rain. The region experienced showers between Tuesday and Thursday, with temperatures dipping to the freezing point Thursday night. Snow followed, lasting through early Friday afternoon.
“Anytime it snows, there’s always a chance of it freezing,” Floyd County Emergency Management Agency Director Kent Barrow said. “If people pay attention to the news, they’ll tell you road temperatures will drop. That means when precipitation hits the ground, it could freeze over. Until the road crews can get on the road and work on it, there’s going to be slick spots.”
Barrow said it’s been roughly a decade since an extreme winter weather event hit the area. Whenever a significant amount of snow is expected, he said his team will work with county officials to ensure that road crews have everything they need to keep roads safe.
Since forecasts only called for an inch or two of snow Friday, crews didn’t expect much activity. Aside from the incident on IN-111, no other major incidents were reported in the area.
Floyd County Sheriff Frank Loop told the News and Tribune that his county experienced no weather-related crashes Friday.
Even during relatively minor winter events, Barrow said it’s important to be cautious when behind the wheel of a vehicle.
“Slow down,” he said. “Give yourself room in between vehicles. Watch for black ice. I think that was probably the major issue this morning. Obviously, if it rains the day before and it starts snowing with the temperature dropping, we’re going to have some freezing.”
Saturday brings with it a chance for more snow, with a high of 39 degrees and a low 27 degrees. By Sunday, temperatures will exceed 50 degrees.
Forecasts so far are calling for fairly consistent weather over the next couple of weeks. Apart from a few days with temperatures in the low 40s, the air will hover right around the 50-degree mark.
Southern Indiana is known for its sometimes extreme day-to-day shifts in weather, so Barrow isn’t calling an all clear for the season quite yet.
“It’s the Ohio Valley,” he said. “If you don’t like the weather right now, wait five minutes and it’ll change. February is tough. If we can get through February like we have, we’ll be OK.”
In the meantime, Barrow said drivers can take precautions by following safety tips for winter travel issued by the Indiana Department of Homeland Security. A preparedness kit, he said, could come in handy should the unexpected happen.
Winter driving safety tips:
• Before leaving, check weather reports on local news stations and check the county travel status map.
• Drive well below the posted speed limit and leave plenty of room between cars.
• Stay attentive and reduce speeds during times of limited visibility.
• Do not tailgate or try to pass snowplows.
• Allow for more braking time on slick and snowy roads.
• Take it slow when approaching intersections, off-ramps, bridges or shady areas in case of black ice.
• Share the planned destination, route and expected arrival time with someone.
• Keep windows, mirrors, headlights, tail lights and brake lights clear of snow and ice.
Vehicle emergency kit:
• Portable phone charger
• Extra blankets or a sleeping bag
• Jumper cables
• Flashlight and extra batteries
• First aid kit
• Ice scraper and snow brush
• Bag of sand
• Non-perishable food
• Spare clothes, mittens, scarves, hats
Make driving in winter slightly easier by having a mechanic check the following items on every vehicle:
• Belts and hoses
• Windshield wipers
• Antifreeze levels
• Headlights, taillights and hazard lights