By Devan Strebing
---- — The start of 2014 brought with it a winter weather advisory for this area that started late Wednesday night and continues throughout the weekend.
The winter storm, dubbed “Hercules,” pushed through the Midwest into the northeast states, bringing with it heavy snow, strong winds, frigid temperatures, and dangerous wind chills.
As a result of the blowing snow and very low temperatures, road clearing efforts were difficult. Road salt and chemicals lose much of their effectiveness when temperatures drop into the single digits or lower.
Curt Higginbotham, superintendent of the Hendricks County Highway Department, said roads were snow covered and slick for the Thursday morning commute. Whenever roads are snow covered, he said, motorists should use caution.
“We plow the snow first and then after we get the snow plowed, we put some salt on to melt the rest,” he said. “We’ve seen a few slide-offs so we urge everyone to go slow.”
He said the highway department is always watching the weather radar and they try to watch as many forecasts as possible to get a general idea of what the weather will do.
“We have 26 guys and I don’t like to go over an 18-hour shift, but we’re always out working,” Higginbotham said. “We do the best we can. When it’s still snowing, it’s hard to make any progress. But once it stops, we do.”
Hendricks County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Jim Yetter said their officers spent Thursday responding to crashes and slide-offs.
“It was nothing serious, just mostly property damage,” he said. “We have all of our units out and we're getting everyone safely to where they need to be.”
He advised motorists to slow down and keep a good stopping distance between vehicles.
“We caution everybody to give themselves a longer commute,” he said. “We take one crash at a time and keep people moving.”
The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) is maintaining a full call-out to continue plowing and treating snow accumulating on interstates, highways, and state routes. INDOT deployed 170 yellow plow trucks across East Central Indiana, allowing a plow to touch every lane every two to three hours, barring traffic delays.
Hendricks County Meals on Wheels and PJ’s College of Cosmetology in Brownsburg were closed on Thursday due to weather conditions.
In the first wave of the storm that hit Wednesday night into Thursday morning, about five inches of snow fell in Hendricks County and Indianapolis got about six inches. Additional snowfall is predicted through Sunday.
Yetter said the sheriff's department will call in more officers, if needed.
Motorists are advised to avoid unnecessary travel and to be prepared for winter weather conditions on roadways. Always give snow plows room to safely do their work, adjust speed according to weather and road conditions, don’t follow too closely, and brake early and slowly.
For more tips on safe driving in winter weather, visit the website at www.WinterDrivingSafety.in.gov.
Stay informed about weather and road conditions online at www.TrafficWise.IN.gov or by calling 1-800-261-ROAD (7623).