Ice, sleet and a dusting of snow were expected to contribute to a tricky morning commute today for area motorists.
City and county trucks spread a salt brine mixture Wednesday and Thursday on main roads to help prevent the ice from sticking. The coating also helps make plowing snow easier if needed.
Crews also were on standby overnight, with some drivers reporting to work as early as 3 a.m. to be ready to tackle slippery roadways.
The National Weather Service was predicting freezing rain to start falling in the Columbus area Thursday night with ice accumulation of about one-tenth of an inch by morning.
John Hendrickson, a NWS meteorologist in Indianapolis, said overnight temperatures in the 20s here could be above freezing by 8 to 9 a.m. and should give way to the mid-40s today, but driving still could be a challenge.
“Motorists should check conditions before leaving for work,” he said. “There still could be some slick roads in the morning.”
Road conditions also could be worse farther north, so anyone commuting outside of Columbus might face colder temperatures and icier conditions, Hendrickson added.
Temperatures should be in the 30s and 40s over the weekend, Hendrickson said.
The late-February icy weather storming through Indiana started with a low-pressure system over Texas and brought much worse weather, including heavy snow, to states west and north of Indiana, Hendrickson added.
“This is pretty typical for this time of year,” he said about the ice and snow, adding that periods of the wintry mix can still happen in March, although it’s less likely and more infrequent.
Bartholomew County Highway Department Superintendent Dwight Smith said icy roads create some of the most difficult conditions for his crews to handle.
“With ice there is just so much we can do. Even our trucks have trouble on the ice,” Smith said, adding that he was preparing for a messy morning commute.
Bryan Burton, manager of operations for Columbus City Garage, said he was hopeful that by morning temperatures would be warm enough to change the ice to rain, but crews would be prepared if that doesn’t happen.
“We’ll have guys come in at 3 or 4 in the morning and be ready to go,” Burton said. “The temperature plays a big part in road conditions. Temperature and sunshine are our best friends.”