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Blizzard pounds area: Check here for updates


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5 p.m.: Commissioners reschedule for Thursday

Wednesday's Bartholomew County Commissioner's meeting has been rescheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday in the Commissioner's Chambers. 

2 p.m.: Most CRH Outpatient Services reopen Thursday

Columbus Regional Health Outpatient Services will resume regular hours on Thursday with one exception.

Nashville Physical Therapy will remain closed on Thursday.

1:10 p.m.: Slow going on U.S. 31

U.S. 31 from Columbus to Taylorsville early afternoon was down to one plowed lane each way and was ice-covered enough that most traffic was slowed to 25 mph to 30 mph.

1 p.m.: Commons closes

The Commons has closed for the day, although 4th Street entrances for Scotty's Burger Joint and Puccini's will remain open.

11:50 a.m.: Rumpke cancels pickup today

Rumpke of Indiana trash and recycling collection has been canceled today in Bartholomew County, as well as in Brown, Jackson, Jennings, Johnson, Lawrence and Scott counties.

Due to Christmas and the inclement weather, Rumpke customers who normally have service on Tuesday will have pickup delayed until next week. Weather permitting, customers who normally have service Wednesday, Thursday or Friday will be on a one-day delay the remainder of this  week. Customers in the impacted area may call (800) 678-6753 or visit www.rumpke.com for updates.

Rumpke customers in all areas should expect a one-day delay due to Christmas and New Year’s Day.

11:30 a.m.: Some delays in Republic delivery

If Republic home-delivery customers have not yet received their Wednesday edition, it's likely that roads leading to their homes are impassable due to heavy snow.

Editions of The Republic that cannot be delivered today will be dropped off with Thursday's newspaper.

11:10 a.m.: Long day for snow-removal firms

While a lot of retail employees are enjoying an extended Christmas holiday, snow-removal companies are expected to work late into the evening.

"We got all the contracts we can handle," said Mark Douglas, owner of Grass Luvers.

His three crews, which include pickup trucks and skid steers, are plowing mostly for commercial customers.

Douglas said he might be able to work someone in yet today, but most likely they will have to wait until Thursday.

Craig Turner, of Lawns Plus, said he expects his crews to be plowing for a couple of days.

Though he welcomed the work, Turner said he typically charges commercial customers by square footage, which means he makes more money of a quick dusting of two or three inches than a day-long blizzard of 10 inches.

The heavy, wet snow is taking a long time to remove, Turner said.

But, after a mild winter a year ago and a dry summer that reduced revenues for his lawn-care business, Turner said, "We can't complain."

Meanwhile, many retail businesses are closed today, including those in FairOaks Mall and at Edinburgh Premium Outlets.

Although home improvement store Lowe's remained open, snow blowers are resting on shelves.

"I've sold one today," said Brian Branaman, customer service associate, this morning.

He figures that most people are staying home — though he sold quite a few snow shovels.

"We still got plenty," he said.

John Cottrill, owner of Affordable Tow & Recovery, said he has not fielded many calls, probably because people are keeping their cars in their garages and driveways.

That seems sensible to Turner, who said that municipal trucks going down 25th Street, for example, are pushing snow into two-foot high berms on the side, making driving difficult for most motorists.

"I wouldn't recommend traveling," Turner said.

11:05 a.m.: Travel watch called for Bartholomew County

The Bartholomew County Emergency Management Agency has bumped the county's travel advisory to a travel watch, which restricts travel specifically to work and for emergencies.

Dennis Moats, director of the local Emergency Management Agency, said road crews for the city and county are fighting a "losing battle" because of wind blowing snow back onto the roads.

A travel watch is the final designation before an outright travel ban.

Moats said the ban is possible if conditions worsen.

11:05 a.m.: No serious incidents

There had not been any significant accidents reported in Bartholomew County as of 8:45 a.m., according to Bartholomew County Emergency Operations Center director Ed Reuter

"We've just had some slide-offs, a few fender-benders, and that's about it," he said.10:50 a.m. Bad, but not as bad

While the amount of snow expected to be received today is less than earlier forecasts, Bartholomew County Emergency Operations Center director Ed Reuter said it's still going to be bad. As of 10 a.m., according to the National Weather Service, total daytime accumulation is expected to be 6 to 10 inches for Columbus.

"When we say the word 'blizzard', that's what it is," Reuter said.  "There's been a lot of information put out on this over the last 24 hours. Well, it's now here.  People need to heed to the warning, and only travel when it is absolutely necessary.".

Reuter was a trooper with the Indiana State Police when the Blizzard of 1978 hit the Columbus area. 

"There is nothing like it," said Reuter in regard to blizzard conditions.  "It's just an entirely different situation than we dealt with in any other type of weather situation.

In order to keep first-responder free as much as possible, police will not be unlocking vehicles today unless there is an emergency such as a child being locked in a car or truck.

11 a.m.: Counting his blessings

While weather conditions are expected to deteriorate today,  Bartholomew County Emergency Operations Center director Ed Reuter is still counting his blessings.

"The good thing is that we've got no children in school and many people are still on vacation," Reuter said.  "What we may see more than anything is problems with Interstate 65."

Reuter noted that about 40,000 vehicles go by Columbus on the interstate during a normal day. 

"When you figure in that today is a travel day, and that these people may not be aware of the severity of the weather, we may see more activity on the interstate than we will here in Columbus and in our rural areas," Reuter. said.

10:55 a.m.: Planning helped

Special preparations were made Sunday in preparation for today's anticipated blizzard.

Bartholomew County 911 worked with Columbus Regional Hospital and area volunteer fire departments with a goal to enhance emergency responses, especially in rural areas. 

Volunteer firefighters are expected to use four-wheel drive vehicles to respond with ambulances to help the medics in case they get stuck, as well as to pick up any person who may be stranded in the snow. The Columbus Fire Department will be available to handle conventional emergencies.

10:45 a.m.: Don't call 911 for business closings

The Bartholomew County Emergency 911 Center has been receiving calls from people wondering whether centain businesses are open. 

"We don't generally receive that information unless there is a major facility like Cummins that calls it into us," said Reuter.  "You need to know what your employer's policy is concerning weather-related absences.  If you have to go to work, you need to let your family know when you are leaving and what route you are traveling.  You also need to take a kit with you that includes blankets, kitty litter or sand, a shovel and anything else you might need if you become stuck in the snow."

10:42 a.m.: Call 911 for emergency assistance

Bartholomew County Emergency Operations Center director Ed Reuter said if anyone needs police, fire or medical services on an emergency basis, they should call 911.  If their car is stuck, the Bartholomew County Emergency 911 Center has a system that will allow first responders to track their cell numbers to get a rough idea of their location. 

"But what we don't want people to do is to call 911 centers for road and weather information," Reuter said.  "Websites maintained by the Indiana State Police and the Indiana Department of Transportation can provide much of that information.  But to just call 911 and ask for road and weather information takes time away from our dispatchers to handle emergencies."   

For travelers, Reuter recommends the Indiana Counties Travel Advisories Map, maintained by the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.  in.gov/dhs/files/travel-advisory-map.

10:30 a.m.: Roads slick below snow.

During the early morning hours, south central Indiana received only flurries and light snow. The winter storm hit Columbus shortly after 5:30 a.m., according to Bartholomew County Emergency Operations Center director Ed Reuter.  Visibility was estimated at between 50 to 75 feet outside the Columbus city limits.

Reuter said that while visibilities improved in the city, Columbus received sleet that has made pavements extremely slick under the snow.  He added roads are expected to become more slick as the day progresses.

9:50 a.m. Trash pick-up running

Trash service in Columbus is running as usual today, despite the wintery weather.

Mayor Kristen Brown said the large trucks do well in the snow.

However, the collection crews are operating a day behind schedule because of the Christmas holiday. That means Tuesday's route is being collected today.

9:05 a.m.: Crews battle snow with mixed success

Road crews were having mixed success this morning with clearing roads in the city and county.

Columbus Mayor Kristen Brown said the city street crew, consisting of 21 plow trucks, has cleared the city's main arterial roads to the point that she considers them "pretty passable." But she said people still shouldn't get out unless it's absolutely necessary.

Bartholomew County Highway Superintendent Dwight Smith said the wind has been causing issues in rural areas. He said that each time any of the county's 18 plow trucks clear a road, the wind blows the snow back onto it again within about 30 minutes and makes the road no safer than it was before.

He said that's why county crews have been concentrating only on the county's main roads, including 25th Street, Marr Road and Southern Crossing.

9 a.m.: Grocery stores open

Columbus grocery stores and gas stations remain open to help shoppers get through today's storm, though some employees were struggling to get to work because of slick roads.

Wal-Mart, Target, Kroger, Jay C, Marsh, Kroger and Circle K stores in Columbus all were operating as normal as of 8:30 a.m.

Mark Combs, executive director of marketing for Jay C food stores, said some employees did not make it to work today because of the weather. And that's OK, he said, because the company wants employees and consumers to be safe.

Enough employees had arrived at the stores in Seymour and Columbus to operate normally, he said.

"We may close and send them home early" if weather worsens, said Combs, who is based in Seymour.

The company probably will not send out any trucks today to deliver product, Combs said, which may cause shortages of some products. However, Combs said that typically few people shop for groceries on the day after Christmas.

As of 8:30 a.m., Circle K stores were expected to operate as normal, said Bruce Landini, vice president for the chain's Midwest operations.

9:30 a.m. update: Today's closings

— Jackson County government offices. Only essential services are working today (law enforcement, highway department, EMS).

— Seymour city offices. Only essential services are working today (law enforcement, fire, street department)— Bartholomew County offices are closed today. The County Commissioners meeting that had been scheduled for 10 a.m. today will be rescheduled.

— The city of Columbus is closing non-essential city offices today including City Hall, City Utilities, Hamilton Center and Donner Center.  The Commons will be open for the restaurants that choose to be open.
 
— Renner Motors, 3055 Central Ave., will be closed today.
 
— Coers Family Eyecare, 2520 California Street, Suite G, will be closed today.

— Bartholomew County Public Library will be closed today. That includes the main location at 536 Fifth St., plus the Hope branch at 635 Harrison St.

— Columbus city transit service stopped running as of 8 a.m. today.

— Human Services Inc. is closing its agencies in five counties, including the Bartholomew County one in Hope. Other county offices in the region that are closed today include Shelby, Decatur, Johnson and Jackson.

— Columbus Internal Medicine Associates, 3015 10th St., Columbus, is closed today.

— Little Lambs Child Care Ministry, 1610 Taylor Road, will close at noon today.

— Columbus Regional Health Outpatient Services will be closed today. Outpatient surgeries are not being cancelled, but all other outpatient services will not be available. Emergency Services will remain open. Information about when Outpatient Services will resume regular hours will be posted as soon as the information is available.

—  Hamilton Center Ice Arena, 2501 Lincoln Park Drive, is closed today.

8:45 a.m. Snow emergency unlikely for Bartholomew County

Bartholomew County Commissioner Paul Franke and Mayor Kristen Brown said they doubt the city and county would declare a snow emergency today, despite the wintery weather.

Any decision to declare such an emergency would have to come mutually from Brown and County Commissioner President Larry Kleinhenz.

Franke said the commissioners are reluctant to declare snow emergencies unless absolutely necessary, because some people will have to get out no matter what.

"We'd declare a snow emergency only if the roads are impassable," Brown said. "We're not there yet."

For now, city and county officials are advising people to stay off the roads unless travel is essential.

8:40 a.m.: Road condition upodates

Motorists are advised to not call city, county or state police to check on road conditions, as police agencies across the state want to keep phone lines open for emergency phone calls. 

Dial toll-free 1-800-261-ROAD (7623) for updated Indiana travel information, including road conditions, road closures, crashes and other traffic alerts.

8 a.m.: Slideoffs begin

Dispatchers with the Bartholomew County Emergency Operations Center are beginning to take calls about weather-related slide-offs and traffic accidents.

City units are on the scene now of a slide-off at Third and Brown streets, according to a dispatcher. None of the weather-related incidents reported so far have been serious.

7:45 a.m.: State Police travel advisory

Road conditions throughout the Indiana State Police Versailles District, which includes Bartholomew County, are snow-covered, slick and hazardous. State Police report that all roads in the district are open at this time, but the Ripley County Sheriff’s Department is investigating an overturned large straight truck on I-74 eastbound at the 153 mile marker (about 2 miles east of Batesville). The interstate is open at that location, but motorists are advised to use caution and be prepared to stop or make a lane change when wrecker crews begin to remove the vehicle.

7 a.m.: Columbus plows hit the street

The city of Columbus has a full crew out plowing the roads today, and full crews of police officers and firefighters on duty, according to Mayor Kristen Brown.

6:45 a.m.: City Hall, non-essential city offices closed today

The city of Columbus is closing non-essential city offices today including City Hall, City Utilities, Hamilton Center and Donner Center.  The Commons will be open for the restaurants that choose to be open.

Trash collection service is running today but is still a day behind schedule because of the Christmas holiday.

Today’s 10 a.m. meeting of the city  Board of Public Works and Safety is cancelled and has been rescheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday. 

5:04 p.m. Tuesday: Statewide emergency operations center to be activated

Under the direction of the Public Safety Director Troy Riggs and Homeland Security Chief Gary Coons, the Division of Homeland Security will be activating the Emergency Operations Center at 3  a.m. Wednesday. The EOC will be activated at Level III and may move into a Level II depending on the conditions and strength of this blizzard. 

4:55 p.m. Tuesday: CRH Outpatient Services to close

Columbus Regional Health Outpatient Services will be closed on Wednesday because of anticipated severe weather. Outpatient surgeries for Wednesday are NOT being cancelled, but all other outpatient services will not be available.

“We apologize for any inconveniences this might cause,” said Kurt Ellis, VP Business Development and Outpatient Services. “Public officials are encouraging people to stay off of the roads unless it is an emergency. Therefore, we think it is in the best interest and safety of our patients to close our Outpatient Services."  

Emergency Services will remain open. Information about when Outpatient Services will resume regular hours will be posted as soon as the information is available.

Services closed include: Cancer Center, Breast Health Center, Lung Institute, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy and Wound Center.

4:14 p.m. Tuesday: Do not drive during storm, state police say.

From the Indiana State Police: Residents are reminded to avoid traveling unless the trip is absolutely necessary.

The state police issued these tips:

• Do not call city, county or state police to check on road conditions – police agencies across the state want to keep phone lines open for emergency phone calls

• If you must drive during any period of the storm a fully charged and functioning cell phone is your best friend

• If involved in a crash and no one is injured and the involved vehicles are still drivable, move to a safe area to exchange names, vehicle and license plate information, along with driver license number and insurance agent name and phone number with the other driver

• During severe weather conditions law enforcement will be busy responding to emergency calls and will not be able to take reports of crashes where there is only damage to property

• Vehicles left abandoned along interstate and state road right-of-ways are subject to immediate removal during inclement weather events.

3 p.m. Tuesday: Weather service to issue blizzard warning

Blizzard warning remains in effect from 1 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday. Precipitation expected to start after 1 a.m. Wednesday. Accumulation of 10 to 14 inches of snow.

Tuesday night: Snow, mainly after 1 a.m. Steady temperature around 31. Blustery, with a northeast wind 17 to 24 mph, with gusts as high as 36 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80 percent. Total nighttime snow accumulation of 1 to 2 inches possible.

Wednesday: Snow with areas of blowing snow. The snow could be heavy at times. High near 33. Breezy, with a north northeast wind 20 to 26 mph, with gusts as high as 38 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90 percent. New snow accumulation of 6 to 10 inches possible.

Wednesday night: Areas of blowing snow. Cloudy, with a low around 23. North northwest wind 8 to 18 mph, with gusts as high as 30 mph. Chance of precipitation is 10 percent.

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