Bracing for cold: Storms complicate travel, cleanup ongoing


Jackson County residents should brace for low temperatures following two weekend winter weather events, a local emergency management official reports.

The outlook for the rest of the week calls for temperatures that will plummet to low single digits for most of the week, said Duane Davis, director of the Jackson County Emergency Management Agency.

He said he expects the temperatures to rise heading into the weekend.

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“I think it will start to warm up on Thursday,” he said.

In the meantime, the low temperatures are expected to refreeze the snow and ice left over from both storms, creating unfavorable road conditions for motorists.

“Any untreated roads or roads that aren’t thoroughly cleared, they will refreeze and make them slippery, so people need to be cautious when they’re driving,” Davis said.

Although Jackson County didn’t get as much snow as predicted for either of the storms over the weekend and early Monday, poor road conditions led to the cancellations of schools and other events. There also were wrecks and power outages.

“We got an inch or a little more, depending on where you’re at,” Davis said of the storm that passed through early Monday. “We didn’t get the three-plus inches expected.”

Davis said the National Weather Service in Indianapolis had predicted more than the inch of ice and snow that fell Friday.

Cancellations and wrecks

Classes were canceled at all of the county schools Monday, and classes for today at Brownstown Central Community School Corp. and Medora Community Schools had been canceled by 3:30 p.m. Monday.

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Department responded to more than 20 incidents involving weather conditions throughout the weekend and into Monday morning.

One of Monday’s incidents involved a woman whose vehicle slid off of the road and flipped into an 8-foot ditch with standing water in it in the 3500 block East County Road 800N, northwest of Cortland.

Ruta May, 72, told police her 2001 Toyota 4Runner slid going into a 90-degree curve and flipped into the ditch. The driver’s side corner of the roof was submerged in about a foot of water, and she was unable to free herself from the seat belt.

First responders with the Hamilton Township Volunteer Fire Department rescued her from the vehicle Monday morning.

May was not injured, but she was cold and wet from the waist down, said county Officer Brad Barker. He credited the fire department with responding quickly.

“It’s nice to have them help out, and their quick response was a major factor in her well-being,” he said.

May declined treatment from Jackson County Emergency Medical Services, and her husband, James, took her home from the scene.

Sgt. Stephen Wheeles, public information officer for the Indiana State Police Versailles Post, reported on Twitter that troopers with the Versailles Post had 30 motorist assists and investigated 37 property-damage wrecks, three personal-injury wrecks and 32 slide-offs over the weekend.

Stay home if you can

Residents should prepare for the next couple of days of cold temperatures and avoid leaving their homes unless necessary, Davis said.

“They need to make sure they have adequate supplies in their homes so they can avoid getting out any more than necessary,” Davis said.

Jerry Ault, Jackson County Highway Department superintendent, said it would help if residents can avoid county roads while crews are out because narrow paths are created when a vehicle meets a county truck attempting to clear the roads.

“If people would stay off the road, it would help us get through faster,” he said. “We only do county roads, and if you’ve got a 12-foot plow on the front of the truck, it’s difficult because in order to get around the plow, you actually have to watch that you don’t slip off the road so they can get around.”

A wrecker is required to pull the county trucks off of the road if they get stuck, he said. The department did not report such an incident throughout the weekend.

Prepping the roads

Ault said his 21-man crew was busy laying salt and sand mixtures throughout the weekend and removing snow on the county’s 750 miles of rural roads. The department also clears subdivisions in the Seymour area.

The department utilized its 14 dump trucks equipped with snowplows and the four pickup trucks with snowplows to respond to the conditions. The department worked 18 hours Friday and 12 hours Saturday. They were called out again Monday, Ault said.

There’s not much the department can do to catch a break when they’re required to respond to multiple storms over the course of a few days, Ault said, but he encourages rest whenever possible.

“I sent the guys home and told them to get rested up,” he said. “I tell them to stop and take a break, and they take a lunch break. Nothing out of the ordinary.”

Jackson County REMC reported power outages both Friday and Sunday.

Nicole Ault, communications and public relations specialist with Jackson County REMC, said there were about 500 outages for about an hour Friday night in south central Jackson County.

Most of those power outages were caused when large gusts of wind forced lines covered in ice to collide.

“We call that galloping, and when it does that, it shorts the lines out, and we have to keep going back and making sure they’re energized,” she said.

The company posted on Facebook on Friday night that while galloping “can be a nuisance, it generally is not harmful and doesn’t necessarily mean that there is a larger problem that needs to be addressed.”

Galloping also was the cause of lights flickering and bright flashes in the sky many customers and residents reported, she said.

“A lot of people will report seeing those flashes and even sparks,” Nicole Ault said. “That is the lines getting too close to each other.”

A breaker malfunctioned at a substation Sunday, causing the whole substation to lose power and leaving 1,900 customers without power for an hour, she said.

Most of those outages were in the north and central part of the county.

“We were able to reroute power and get everyone’s electricity turned back on in just over an hour,” Nicole Ault said.

The company’s Facebook page stated power had been restored by 1 p.m. Friday.

She said she was not aware of any transformer that failed during either storm. Jackson County REMC has 19 linemen to respond to outages.

“When a winter storm is coming, it’s all hands on deck,” she said.

Davis said another thing residents should consider is looking out for pets during the cold snap.

“They need to take care of their animals over the next two or three nights,” he said. “Animals need to be brought in and kept warm. If they can’t come in, they need to have warm bedding and plenty of water.”

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