By Ken de la Bastide and Carson Gerber
The first major snowstorm hit central Indiana with a vengeance Wednesday, as blowing snow and cold temperatures left road crews struggling to keep roads passable.
The National Weather Service issued a blizzard advisory for areas north of Indianapolis with projections of 5 to 9 inches of snow.
It is the first major winter storm to hit central Indiana since 2010.
Joe Ewing, director of public maintenance for Kokomo, said city street crews went out as soon as the first snow started to fall about 7 a.m. Wednesday.
Ewing said there are 24 trucks equipped with snow plows that spent the morning trying to keep up with the primary roads.
“We just plowed Washington Street from Markland Avenue to the point at Lowe’s and the street is covered again,” Ewing said at 11 a.m. Wednesday. “We’ll just keep hitting the primary streets.”
Blowing snow was a problem in the city’s outlying areas, he said.
“It’s going to be a tough call,” Ewing said of how long to keep the crews working. “If they work until 7 p.m., that will be 16 hours. If it stops around 7 p.m., we might shut things down for a few hours.”
Mayor Greg Goodnight said crews pretreated some of the main thoroughfares with a salt brine mix.
“The crews will be out until the early morning hours,” he said Wednesday.
Howard County offices closed down at noon Wednesday, said Commissioner Tyler Moore.
“We’re recommending people stay off the roads,” he said. “We’re keeping in close contact with the sheriff, emergency management and police.”
Ted Cain, county highway superintendent, said the snow was blowing across the pavement and not causing widespread drifting.
“We still have bare pavement in spots,” Cain said. “We’re checking for any major problems.”
Cain said crews started clearing roads at 3 p.m. Wednesday. It’s a job that normally takes eight to 10 hours.
“The wind is not as bad as was predicted,” he said. “We’ll make a first pass, and when the wind dies down later, we will make a second pass.”
Howard County has 21 pieces of equipment that can be used to clear snow and four trucks equipped to apply salt to the road surface.
Sam Waltz, superintendent of the Miami County Highway Department, said although the nasty weather created dangerous driving conditions, keeping roadways cleared was easier this time around than the blizzard in 2010. He said wet snow during that storm brought down trees and power lines and made clearing roads more difficult.
“Here we just have drifting snow and no fallen limbs or lines,” he said, noting 16 trucks have kept Miami County roads open with relative ease.
Still, the Indiana Department of Transportation said drivers would continue to fight what is expected to be a long battle with the storm, according to a press release.
INDOT had deployed between 25 and 30 trucks in the Tipton subdistrict and 180 trucks in central Indiana. The crews were working on 12-hour shifts.
As of 11 a.m. Wednesday, the crews with the Tipton County Highway Department were on stand-by and had not started plowing county roads.
The department has 15 trucks ready to begin plowing operations.