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Crews struggle to keep up with steady snow


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Winter weather that canceled classes for area schools and kept road crews busy all day Friday also led to the cancellation of today’s Festival of Lights Parade.

Although nearly a foot of snow was expected to be cleared in time for the downtown parade, organizers were more worried about freezing conditions. Temperatures were expected to be about zero for the start of the 6 p.m. event.

An estimated 5,000 to 6,000 people attend the parade each first Saturday in December.

Parade Chairwoman Joyce Lucke said canceling the event was best for everyone’s safety. The QMIX Musical Fireworks, which was scheduled to follow the parade, was also canceled.

People wanting to celebrate the holiday downtown can still enjoy the free Christmas Village inside The Commons from 1 to 6 p.m. today.

Plowing ahead

City and county snowplow drivers headed to work early Friday morning to get a jump on the snow, but found themselves facing an uphill battle. The steady accumulation forced drivers to go back and retrace their covered paths.

Dwight Smith, Bartholomew County Highway Superintendent, had 15 snowplow drivers at work Friday morning, prepared to tackle 700 miles of county roads.

“It’s going to take a long time,” Smith said.

Drivers headed out to every township and were prepared to plow and plow again, Smith said.

The winter storm arrived late Thursday evening with freezing rain and switched to snow overnight, greeting morning commuters with a layer of white covering lawns, cars and roads.

The National Weather Service reported an estimated seven inches had fallen by noon Friday.

Meteorologist Jason Puma said the Columbus area was expected to receive another two to four inches before the winter storm warning expired at midnight Friday.

Southern Indiana seemed to get the brunt of the storm in the Hoosier state, Puma said.

Bryan Burton, Columbus City Garage manager, said crews started working on the roads at 1 a.m. Friday and were able to keep up through the morning rush hour. By about mid-morning, the snow picked up, making the plowing job more difficult.

Burton said main roads are the first priority followed by side streets. If the snow comes down too fast to keep up, he tries to give drivers a break to rest before hitting the streets again.

Throughout Friday, Burton watched weather reports, including snowfall predictions and temperatures as he prepared his strategy for the day.

Smith also kept an eye on weather reports, making sure the most heavily traveled roads were cleared and the hills and curves got extra salt and sand.

Slippery roads

Police also were out, keeping watch on drivers and urging motorists to reduce speeds as they traveled on the snow- and ice-covered roads.

Major Todd Noblitt, chief deputy with the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department, said conditions began to deteriorate in late morning, contributing to more accidents.

City police officers responded to multiple slideoffs, including one near U.S. 31 and Lowell Road and another at Central Avenue and 10th Street, said Lt. Matt Myers, Columbus Police Department spokesman.

Myers said the biggest problem was people driving too fast for the conditions.

By mid-afternoon, CPD had responded to 15 property-damage accidents and one involving a minor personal injury.

A five-vehicle accident occurred at the 76-mile marker of Interstate 65 near Taylorsville, but no details were immediately available.

Dennis Moats, director of Bartholomew County Emergency Management, said no major problems were reported during the day, but he was keeping an eye on another developing storm.

Freezing rain could reach Indiana by Sunday or Monday, so Moats advised residents to remain alert and be prepared for weather emergencies such as power outages.

Christmas Village activities

Today’s free Christmas Village activities will be offered inside The Commons from 1 to 6 p.m. The debut event will feature children’s activities, music, vendors and entertainment.

Activities include:

  • A gingerbread village that children can help decorate, hosted by Sweet Rose Bakehouse.
  • Holiday model train displays, presented by the Columbus Area Railroad Club.
  • Keepsake ornament activities, provided by kidscommons.
  • Children’s games and crafts, by Foundation for Youth
  • Face painting, by Girls Scouts of Central Indiana and by Chelsie Liberati and Linda Guillaume
  • Gingerbread garland craft, story of the gingerbread man and cookie takeaway, by Columbus Parks & Recreation, Bartholomew Consolidated School Foundation and C4 Culinary Arts program

Vendors:

  • 240 Sweets (marshmallow treats)
  • Ashlynn Leigh Cakes (bakery treats)
  • Ahlemeyer Farms (bakery treats)
  • Amy Lienhoop (art/jewelry designs)
  • Beth Jackson (jewelry designs)
  • Columbus Roundabout Art Co-op (art paintings/drawings by local artists)
  • Jenny’s Creations (handmade home decor)
  • Jubliee Bath & Body (handmade bath and body products)
  • Lily Alyssa Boutique (handsewn & crocheted accessories)
  • Love Indiana Outdoors (handmade items)
  • Sogna della Terra (bakery treats and beverages)
  • Smith’s Row (desserts)
  • Tree Top Creations (handmade holiday decor)

Entertainment planned:

  • 1 p.m.: First Baptist Church Hand Bell Quartet
  • 1:30 p.m.: Bartholomew County Library storyteller
  • 2 p.m. : Sine Nomine Carolers
  • 2:30 p.m. : Three Handsome Gentlemen Men’s Quartet
  • 3 p.m. : Dance Street performance
  • 3:30 p.m. : Kristen Wright, soloist/guitarist
  • 4 p.m. : Magic show with Travis Easterling

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