Dianne Frances D. Powell
TERRE HAUTE —
The first winter blast of the new year brought snow that made the trees and houses look pretty and allowed kids to go sledding at Deming Park. But it also created hazardous road conditions for many commuters in the Wabash Valley on Thursday.
Back from the holiday, it took longer than usual for some employees to get to work.
“It felt surprisingly dangerous,” said Ryan Hamilton of his early Thursday morning drive from his southside home to a downtown workplace. Normally, it takes 10 minutes to get to work but it took double that time Thursday, he said.
Residents woke up to about 5 inches of snow from a storm system that started to move through the area late Wednesday. Snow continued to fall throughout the day on Thursday until the late afternoon. The area received an average of about 4 to 6 inches of snow, according to the National Weather Service.
And it was cold.
The low during the day on Thursday was 16 degrees with the highest wind gust speed of 24 miles per hour. However, Thursday night was expected to be even colder with temperatures around 2 degrees and wind chills around -8. A winter weather advisory was in effect for Terre Haute and surrounding areas until 7 p.m. Thursday.
But worse weather is yet to come.
Tara Dudzik, meteorologist at the National Weather Service, said another storm system will move through the area this weekend. Snow will start coming into Terre Haute Saturday night, and it is expected to intensify on Sunday, she said.
While the NWS is still calculating expected total snow accumulation, “it could be significant snowfall totals,” Dudzik said.
Very cold, frigid air will follow that system.
“Some of the coldest air we’ve ... had in 20 years,” Dudzik said. Meteorologists were recalling Jan 19, 1994, a day when actual temperatures reached as low as -27 degrees.
The high on Monday is expected to be around -1, Dudzik said. On Monday night, temperatures could be around -12 to -15 “and that’s without wind chill,” she said. With wind chill, it could get as cold as -30 to -35 Monday through Tuesday night.
Then, “it will start warming up a little bit,” Dudzik said, with an expected -20 wind chill on Tuesday night. Temperatures could be around -4, she said.
Hazardous road conditions created by the winter weather on Thursday kept police busy with weather-related service calls.
The Indiana State Police said that between 1 a.m. and 5 p.m. Thursday, troopers assisted with 39 vehicle slide offs, nine property damage crashes and six mechanically disabled vehicles.
Three crashes with injuries — one in Vigo, one in Clay and one in Putnam County — were also reported and they were also weather-related, Sgt. Joe Watts said.
All injuries were believed to be non-life threatening, Watts said. Minor injuries include cuts, bruises, lacerations, etc., Watts said.
All of the crashes occurred on Interstate 70, which remained open but with scattered slick spots, Watts said.
In Vigo County, a semi truck rolled over at mile marker 1, sending the driver to the hospital; a passenger car rolled over at mile marker 17 in Clay County; and at mile marker 34 in Putnam County, a vehicle struck a guard rail, which injured two people, Watts said.
According to the Indiana State Police, the problem areas have been Interstate 70 from the Illinois state line eastward to the 58-mile marker, U.S. 40 east of Terre Haute, and U.S. 41 in southern Parke County.
One brief road closure in Parke County was reported. It was on U.S. 41 just north of Indiana 163 (Lyford) at the “Daily Hill” area, where “road conditions prevented many passenger cars from continuing up the hill.” The north-bound lane was closed for an about an hour starting at about 8 a.m.
Watts said major highways were open but county and city roads were still snow covered, slick and hazardous despite observing multiple plow trucks throughout the day.
Indiana Department of Transportation spokesperson Debbie Calder said crews have been working since late Wednesday afternoon “ahead of the storm.”
“We’ll continue to be out there until the roads are clear,” she added.
More than 135 INDOT plow trucks have been on the roads across West Central Indiana since the snow began to fall, according to a release.
But a major difficulty for crews was the wind, which blew snow back, Calder said, so she wanted to remind motorists to be watchful of slick spots and drive according to conditions.
Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or firstname.lastname@example.org.