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NWS: FREEZE WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM MIDNIGHT TONIGHT TO 10 AM SATURDAY.   Click for details

Jennings dodges blizzard


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NORTH VERNON — The bark of the winter storm was worse than its bite.

What was billed to be a major blizzard for southern Indiana dumped less than a half-foot of snow in Jennings County before tapering off during the early afternoon Dec. 26.

“We were prepared for a lot more snow,” said Matt Alexander, Jennings County 911 Emergency Management executive director. “But by late morning, we had received only four to five inches.”

Alexander said no part of the county seemed to be more treacherous for travelers than other areas. While first responders were prepared for serious crashes Wednesday morning, they only responded to what Alexander called “a few slideoffs” during the worst part of the winter storm.

Emergency workers also were expecting strong winds to cause numerous power outages throughout Jennings County. But Alexander said the only significant blackout was the result of a blown transformer in the Country Squire Lakes subdivision.

The 6:30 a.m. outage affected only customers of Jackson County REMC and was repaired by midmorning.

A number of emergency workers in Jennings and surrounding counties were counting their blessings regarding the timing of the snowstorm. Several noted that it arrived while school was not in session and several workers were still on vacation the day after Christmas.

In addition, the public received plenty of advance warning of the storm since it originated in California several days before arriving in Jennings County.

But Alexander said there were other factors that worked for the benefit of the public.

“The road crews were out early and did a good job of clearing the snow off the major roads,” Alexander said.

He also noted that ambulance services and local law enforcement agencies made a decision to beef up their staffing long before the storm’s arrival. That allowed them to handle emergency calls quickly.

Medical officials remain concerned about the potential dangers that come with efforts to dig out from a snowstorm, however.

Cold weather puts an extra strain on the heart, as it is working hard to keep your body warm. Adding physical activities such as shoveling snow increases the risk of heart attack.

People with any sort of heart conditions, including high blood pressure, should avoid shoveling snow or other outdoor physical activities, according to Columbus Regional Hospital nursing supervisor Twanette Lawson.

She added that those who choose to complete outdoor chores should dress warmly, work slowly and pay attention to the warning signs of winter weather health concerns.

If there was one problem Wednesday that Alexander wishes to avoid in the future, it’s the number of non-emergency calls his dispatchers had to deal with.

“We get a lot of calls from people asking for road conditions or whether their workplace has been closed,” Alexander said.

He said the Jennings County 911 Emergency Center is not prepared to answer those types of general questions.

He said those with concerns about road conditions use the web to look at Indiana travel advisory maps. Those maps are available at

jenningscounty.in.gov/ema.

Similar problems were reported at other 911 emergency centers throughout the region. Workers are advised to know their employer’s individual policies concerning weather-related absences and not to make assumptions about attendance based on general weather reports.

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