Winter storm shuts down county over the weekend

A winter storm wreaked havoc on area roads, creating plenty of work for street and road crews and emergency workers helping motorists involved in slide-offs over the weekend.

The storm, which began with rainfall Friday, also severely limited the travel of most county residents after Jackson County commissioners issued a travel warning restricting travel to emergencies at 10:30 p.m. Saturday.

The rainfall which continued into Saturday evening pushed the East Fork White River at Rockford to 14.8 feet at Sunday. That’s nearly 3 feet above flood stage.

When the change over occurred, about five inches of snow fell quickly Saturday evening, according to Duane Davis, director of the Jackson County Emergency Management Agency.

“Some parts of Jackson County received more and some had less,” he said.

The snow was accompanied by strong gusts of wind leading to drifting snow and frigid temperatures that plunged to the high teens. Temperatures were expected to fall to near 10 degrees late Sunday.

Those conditions caused low visibility and incidents for police Saturday evening.

The travel warning lasted 12 hours before it was lowered to a watch shortly after 10 a.m. Sunday. The watch limited traffic to emergencies and motorists traveling to and from work.

Jackson County was one of four counties in the state with a warning still in effect Sunday morning as crews worked to clear roadways.

Commissioner Drew Markel said county highway employees plowed from 5 p.m. Saturday throughout the night, driving more than 3,000 miles by Sunday morning.

The county has 738 miles of county roads, and the department operated 20 plows and two road graders to clear roadways.

Markel said the amount of snow, low temperatures and high winds made the work difficult.

“Our drivers have done a great job working in treacherous conditions to keep roadways open for emergency vehicles,” he said Sunday morning.

Jackson County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Adam Nicholson said county officers responded to 23 incidents Saturday night and Sunday morning, including with nine involving property-damage wrecks. No injuries were reported.

Officers Brad Barker and Clint Burcham were bounced between one call after another to assist motorists, Nicholson said. Reserve officer Eric Browalski also assisted.

“Once the travel warning was in place, things slowed down for our guys,” Nicholson said.

Seymour Police Chief Bill Abbott said city officers investigated three property-damage wrecks and had about 10 motorists assists over the weekend.

On Sunday morning, Sheriff Rick Meyer said he was in the eastern part of Jackson County on Saturday evening and the roads were covered quickly, prompting concern from public officials and law enforcement.

Meyer said motorists should stay off the roadways except for necessary traveling so crews can continue to clear the roads.

“Some circumstances may cause you to drive, but use slow speeds and drive carefully,” he said.

Indiana State Police responded to many incidents throughout District 42, which includes Jackson County.

Sgt. Stephen Wheeles, public information officer, said the district responded to 38 slide offs, three property damage crashes and eight motorist assists between 6 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 a.m. Sunday.

A semitrailer turned sideways on State Road 11 near Interstate 65 late Saturday.

More than a 1,000 homes were without power for hours early Saturday due to a crash in the 5000 block of Sandy Creek Drive involving a 17-year-old motorist who took out two utility poles. The juvenile was not injured, and Duke Energy was able to restore power to most before winter weather hit.

No power outages were reported due to weather.