Bartholomew County residents woke up to the 13th snow event of the season this morning, when as much as 8 inches of snow was expected to greet them.
Meteorologists had predicted varying snowfall totals for south-central Indiana, from 2 to 3 inches in early forecasts to as much as 8 inches as the storm moved closer to Indiana on Tuesday afternoon.
City and county officials weren’t too concerned about the actual amount of snow on the ground this morning. Instead, their concern centered on possible drifts from 20 mph winds overnight and predictions of ice and sleet.
City crews were expected to begin clearing roads as early as 1 a.m. today, according to Columbus City Garage Manager Bryan Burton.
Nineteen trucks, with 19 crew members, were available. But Burton said they first needed to focus on clearing main roads for those returning home from work Tuesday night, especially second shift workers.
Clearing up ice is worse than dealing with snow, said Bartholomew County Highway Engineer Danny Hollander. Downed trees and power lines are possible with an ice storm, he said.
After a telephone conference call with the weather service Tuesday afternoon, Bartholomew County Emergency Management Director Dennis Moats predicted the ice would not be as much of a concern for Columbus as it might have been.
“We’ll gladly take the snow if we can keep the ice away,” Moats said.
But he warned that Bartholomew County was on
the southern edge of the storm. Residents in the northern part of the county could wake up with more snow and no ice, while those in southern areas could experience little snow but icy roads and sidewalks.
Bartholomew County’s winter storm warning continues until 1 p.m. today. It went into effect about 10:45 a.m. Tuesday.
The National Weather Service issued a revised forecast Tuesday afternoon, increasing the snow totals and describing the predicted period of ice and sleet as “brief.”
No matter how “brief,” Hollander said if the area gets more ice than snow, any truck not putting down a mixture of sand and salt won’t help much.
The county has 15 dump trucks with plows capable to spreading the sand/salt mixture along rural roads, Hollander said. They also have six other plow-equipped vehicles to assist the dump trucks.
Worse up north
Those driving north of Bartholomew County today will find travel even more difficult, if not impossible, forecasters warned. Up to 10 inches of snow is expected in central and northern Indiana with blowing and drifting expected.
“While this storm isn’t going to be unusual for this winter, (this) morning is not going to be pleasant,” Moats said.
He asked drivers to allow extra time to travel this morning.
State responseTuesday, Gov. Mike Pence directed the Indiana Department of Transportation to prepare for a full callout across most of the state. A full call-out means 800 plow trucks will be used by crews working alternating 12-hour shifts on state highways.
Meanwhile, there does not appear to be much relief in sight. The bitterly cold temperatures and frequent snow showers of the past two months will continue through February, according to the Indiana State Climate Office.
The snowy weather is due to the position of the polar jet stream, which is the fast-flowing air current that this year starts in northwest Canada and plunges into the central United States, said associate state climatologist Ken Scheeringa.
The position of the polar jet stream has targeted Indiana the past two months. It has formed an open “pipeline” between the Midwest and the frigid air in Canada and the North Pole, Scheeringa said.
While snowfall will taper off slightly this month, Hoosiers should continue to prepare for frequent storms, he said.