INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana authorities had a simple message Monday for anyone considering braving the state's icy, snow-covered roads, biting winds and subzero temperatures: Stay home.
Gov. Mike Pence said he would sign an executive order declaring emergencies for at least 29 of Indiana's 92 counties following a powerful snowstorm that dumped more than a foot of snow in some areas Sunday and Monday and delivered the coldest temperatures in two decades.
Pence warned residents that traveling posed "real peril" because of poor road conditions and dangerous wind chills that could linger for 36 hours.
"If you can stay in today, stay in all day today," he said at a Statehouse news conference. "People need to understand that this is a very serious and very dangerous storm and despite the sunshine it continues to be just that."
Many of Indiana's schools, businesses and municipal offices were shuttered Monday, and some planned to remain closed Tuesday, after the storm dumped up to 15 inches of snow and 35 mph wind gusts drifted some roads shut. Nearly 40,000 homes and businesses remained without power Monday afternoon after tree limbs burdened with snow fell onto power lines.
Behind the storm, an Arctic blast delivered temperatures of nearly 15 degrees below zero to the state's northern half — the coldest since a record cold wave in January 1994. Wind gusts made it feel like 45 degrees below zero in some parts of the state, which is cold enough to freeze exposed skin in minutes, the National Weather Service said.
In Indianapolis, the midday temperature was 12 degrees below zero. Downtown streets were deserted aside from a few heavily dressed pedestrians and the occasional utility truck or snowplow.
Mayor Greg Ballard issued the city's first red level travel warning since a blizzard paralyzed the city in January 1978. He lifted that ban at noon Monday, but said he wanted schools and businesses in the city to remain closed through Tuesday until the worst of the severe cold had passed.