Indianapolis — Up to a foot of wind-whipped snow blanketed parts of southern Indiana and rare blizzard conditions prompted travel warnings Wednesday after the region experienced its heaviest winter storm in years.
Indianapolis had 7 inches of snow on the ground by 10 a.m. and at one point received as much as 3 inches of snow in a single hour, said John Kwiatkowski, a National Weather Service meteorologist in the city. The snowstorm was particularly treacherous because of high winds of 25-30 mph with gusts of up to 40 mph in the state capital.
"The way I've been describing it is as a low-end blizzard, but that's sort of like saying a small Tyrannosaurus rex. Just to become a blizzard is quite an accomplishment. And it's sure a heck of a lot more than we've seen," Kwiatkowski said.
A blizzard warning was in effect until Wednesday evening for much of Indiana's southern two-thirds, and more than a dozen counties issued watches advising against anything but essential travel.
Up to 12 inches of snow buried Knox and Greene counties in southwestern Indiana by late morning, Kwiatkowski said. Greene County officials closed all county roads except to emergency service and private health care workers.
"It's a nightmare for the sheriff," said Roger Axe, the county's emergency management director.
On the south side of Indianapolis, where most businesses and restaurants were closed because of the storm, a few motorists crept along streets filled with drifts and lumps of snow. Roadside ditches were littered with cars that had slid off or were involved in accidents.
"It's ugly out," said Elizabeth Brinker, 26, who was hurrying to reach her car in a downtown parking garage after the law firm where she works sent employees home early.
Six to 10 inches of snow was expected to fall Wednesday in central Indiana, with the heaviest amounts expected south and southeast of Indianapolis, weather service meteorologist Jason Puma said.
By late morning, Interstate 65 and Interstate 465 on Indianapolis' south side were covered in drifts so deep that motorists had to follow in each other's tire tracks.