The Terre Haute area got walloped with about 9 inches of snow in a winter storm that arrived Sunday night and only intensified Monday.
But the Wabash Valley hardly caught the worst of it, as snowfall totals in the Hoosier State ranged from below 6 inches to above 18 inches. The smaller accumulations were reported across most of the southern and southeastern parts of the state, whereas Valparaiso in Northwest Indiana reported 18.5 inches.
Locally, the snow began before dawn Monday and was reinforced with heavier waves on Monday and Monday night. While the snowfall was more than substantial, its light, fluffy nature did give road crews a fighting chance.
Main thoroughfares in Terre Haute were mostly cleared by mid-morning Tuesday.
“We got a little more snow than I thought, but we have not had this much in a while. The main streets are in great shape and we are getting into secondary (streets and) subdivision roads,” Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett said.
The mayor said City Hall was closed and the city bus system was shut down to allow city and county snow plows to clear streets.
The mayor said he took his own snow measurements at his home on Tuesday morning. “My measurement was 8 1/2 inches of snow, and I measured in a couple of spots,” he said.
City Street Commissioner Ernie Meeks said the city has 10 tandem-axle dump truck plows with salt/sand spreaders and two one-ton trucks with attached plows and spreaders.
“We have all of our trucks out,” he said. “We are going to be focusing throughout the remainder of the day today, at least while the sun is up, clearing the main and secondary streets.”
Examples of main or primary streets include Ohio Boulevard, Wabash Avenue, Blakely Avenue, Poplar Street and 13th Street, while examples of secondary streets include Walnut Street or Eighth Street.
“We will be putting down salt and sand as the sun tries to warm things up a little bit. Any warmth we can get will certainly help,” Meeks said.
“We didn’t want to spread material on the snow [on the streets] while it was snowing because then we would just end up blading it back off as we plow,” Meeks said.
The city street department will have snow plow drivers out “24 hours until we clear the streets out,” Meeks said.
“We will probably be getting into the streets where people live probably late (Tuesday night) or early Wednesday morning, depending on how well the salt and sand mixture works and how well the primary and secondary streets start clearing up,” he said.
Vigo County commissioners on Monday night issued the highest level of local travel advisory, a travel warning in which residents are asked to refrain from all travel and to comply with emergency measures.
The issue was drifting snow, said Commissioner Brendan Kearns, who began checking out county roads early Monday evening. Roads were getting cleared, but blowing snow was again covering them, he said.
“Now is not the time to go joyriding,” said Kearns, who added several motorists had nearly hit him head on — near misses he attributed to low visibility and people driving without being entirely sure where on the road they were.
The county’s Emergency Management Agency said the first wave of snow led to snow-covered and slippery roads, but second wave was more impactful, with moderate to heavy snow reducing visibility and blowing and drifting snow making travel difficult.
Kearns said the county highway department “had a strategic meeting by Zoom (Sunday night) to figure out what the plan of attack was, based on the weather forecast. ... The guys started around 3 a.m. (Monday), but we’re going to be working around the clock to make sure the roads are as safe as possible.”
The county purchased several new snow plow trucks last year, which helped with clearing the roads, he said. “They’ve made a huge difference.”
The Indiana Department of Transportation deployed more than 1,100 trucks to plow and treat interstates, highways and state roads. INDOT began patrolling highways by 8 p.m. Sunday and had at its disposal 200,000 tons of salt, 100,000 gallons of brine and 1,800 employees on call to cover 28,000 lane miles.
Chief Deputy Steve Meng of the Vigo County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday said deputies responded to 20 assist motorist calls for vehicles stuck in snow, 10 slide-offs, and four vehicle crashes.
On Monday night and Tuesday, Sgt. Matt Ames of the Indiana State Police reported crashes that closed the interstate at various points in the Putnamville district.
Vigo County closed its government offices on Tuesday, although officials said they would be open today.
In addition to scheduled eLearning on Tuesday, the Vigo County School Corp. canceled all practices, contests, and school activities on Monday evening due to the weather. All schools already were shut down for the Presidents Day holiday.
VCSC will again have an eLearning day today, it announced Tuesday afternoon.
Indiana State University encouraged all employees capable of working remotely to do so Tuesday. Those who could not work remotely were asked to to report to work as usual.
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College closed Tuesday, although dining services remained open for students.
Other organizations, such as Union Hospital and Hamilton Center, announced departmental closures or hour changes for Tuesday.
Sullivan County closed its government offices, and Sheriff Clark Cottom said those would remain closed today.
Travel warnings ease
As Tuesday progressed and road work continued, travel warnings began to ease.
Vigo County shifted from red status, or travel warning, to an orange or travel watch status. That status is scheduled to be in effect until 6 p.m. today.
Late Tuesday afternoon, Parke County also downgraded to orange status. Sheriff Justin Cole said highways and roads were still snow covered and most county roads had been plowed, but road surfaces remained slick.
Vermillion County moved to the lowest level of local travel advisory, yellow, meaning routine travel or activities are possible but may be restricted in some areas because of a hazardous situations.
Also in Vermillion county, the sheriff’s office and jail were without normal telephone service on Tuesday. Sheriff Mike Phelps said AT&T has been contacted about restoring service. However, 911 calls were being received.
The Vermillion County Courthouse will be on a two-hour delay for opening Wednesday. Anyone with a court hearing before 10 a.m. Wednesday should contact their attorney for instructions.
Even as travel warnings ease, officials ask motorists to be alert. The amount of snow on the ground and wind will continue to affect road clearing. Temperatures around zero also might produce significant impact. Some roads will be hazardous and others may be impassable.
The Wabash Valley is not quite in the clear when it comes to the forecast. The National Weather Service has central and west central Indiana under a hazardous weather outlook for today through Monday, Feb. 22. The NWS said:
• Light snow accumulation accumulation is possible late Wednesday into Thursday evening. The highest amounts are expected south of Interstate 70, where 1 to 3 inches will be possible. This will result in slick or snow-covered untreated roads.
• Below zero wind chills are possible again Thursday night and Friday morning and again Friday night and Saturday morning.
• Ice jams may be possible on area rivers.
Also contributing to the report were the Tribune-Star’s Lisa Trigg and Mark Fitton, as well as The Associated Press.