Winter storm comes up short


By January Rutherford and Mitchell Banks

It was the biggest snowfall Jackson County has seen in years, but Monday’s winter storm didn’t leave as much behind as predicted.

By early Tuesday morning, the area saw 5 or more inches of snow on top of the 3 inches already on the ground from last week.

The storm, which picked up in intensity Monday afternoon and evening, was expected to drop nearly a foot of snow across most of the state.

Many businesses closed early Monday and remained closed Tuesday, and local schools implemented eLearning both days.

County officials issued a red travel advisory warning Monday night, restricting travel to emergency workers only. But by noon Tuesday, road conditions had improved enough for commissioners to change the county’s status to an orange watch advisory.

That means conditions are still threatening to the safety of the public and only essential travel, including to and from work and emergency situations, is recommended.

The decision was made so county residents would have time to get to second shift jobs, commissioners said.

“The roads, with some common sense, are driveable, and the state is out working pretty diligently right now,” Commissioner Matt Reedy said.

Jerry Ault, county highway superintendent, said as of Tuesday morning, about 40% of the roads in Pershing, Salt Creek, Owen, Brownstown, Redding and Washington townships were clear. Jackson and Driftwood townships were 45% clear, Vernon and Grassy Fork were about 30% clear and Hamilton Township had 70% of its roadways clear due to farmers in the area helping to keep the roads open.

County road crews were sent home at 6 a.m. Tuesday because they had been out working for nearly 24 hours, Ault said. They were expected to be “at full force” again at 4 p.m., he added.

Seymour Mayor Matt Nicholson said the city experienced no major issues because of the snow, but workers were tired after long 12-hour shifts.

“We are currently on hour 35 of having crews out working to see the pavement shine through,” he said Tuesday morning.

Chad Dixon, director of the Seymour Department of Public Works, said another crew would start fresh at noon.

“The sun is our best friend right now,” he said. “Last night, the crew had put some salt down before the sun came up. In the high-traffic areas, it has helped.”

Dixon said crews have slowly been working their way to secondary streets.

“The secondary streets may have only one pass until they can take more time to open them up,” he said. “It will happen. Unfortunately, it’s just going to take time.”

He hoped to have 80% of streets cleared curb to curb before the next round of snow hits later this week.

He advised people to try not to park their vehicles too far into the street.

“We will do what we can to not plow everyone in, but with this amount of snow, it makes it more difficult to put the snow where it isn’t in everyone’s way,” he said.

Thanks to additional support from Seymour Water Pollution Control and Parks and Recreation, downtown Seymour was being cleared.

“It takes a team, and I am grateful we have so many good people that work for us citywide,” Dixon said.

Although some residential trash pickup was made Tuesday, Dixon said the weather conditions made it too difficult to get all routes caught up.

He asked people to be patient as the snowfall has made trash collection twice as difficult.

“We do not stray away from getting the job done, and sometimes, they enjoy a challenge, but all the while doing it in a safe as possible manner,” he said.

Nicholson applauded local snow removal efforts.

“City, county and state are all working hard, and it shows,” he said Tuesday morning.

Sgt. Stephen Wheeles, public information officer for the Indiana State Police Versailles Post, said highways and the interstate in Jackson County luckily did not have any major accidents.

“In our area, we kind of dodged a bullet,” he said. “No huge crashes or injuries or the interstate being blocked. We’re fortunate.“

Wheeles said the advanced warning of the storm led to people taking more precautions and staying off of the roads.

“I think overall, it seems like people are staying home,” he said. “We’re not seeing the interstate traffic that we normally would, even when a storm comes through.”

The only big problem Wheeles saw was people driving faster, thinking cleared roads are safe, then hitting black ice.

Indiana Department of Transportation road crews were to thank for minimal accidents on state roads, Wheeles said.

“The INDOT crews that are out on the interstates and state highways have done a great job as always in getting the roads clear,” he said. “The roads have stayed pretty clear. They stayed on top of what’s going on.”

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