by Sarah Einselen Pharos-Tribune
---- — Josh Stark shoveled a mound of snow 4 feet high as he dug his wife’s car free.
He and thousands of other area residents faced an onslaught of snow — at least half a foot by 6 p.m. Sunday — brought on by a storm that blanketed Indiana.
Numerous schools, school districts, colleges, cities and counties announced they would be closed today, as the National Weather Service warned of deadly wind chills as low as 45-below zero possible through Tuesday. The General Assembly also postponed the opening day of its 2014 session Monday, and the state appellate courts, including the Indiana Supreme Court, said they would be closed.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence ordered 24, four-person National Guard teams, each with two vehicles, to be ready to rescue stranded motorists, move people to shelters and assist local emergency management workers. State officials say more National Guard members may be added if needed.
“It’s pretty wet stuff,” Stark said as he rested from shoveling. “It’s barely snow.” He added his wife expected to head to work this morning.
Until then, however, he planned to alternate shoveling and staying inside.
“I might put in a movie in a little bit, once I get this done,” Stark said. “Then come out and do it all over again.”
The winter storm is expected to bring dangerously low temperatures in its wake. Schools across the region canceled teacher preparation days or the first day of their spring semesters. Southeastern Schools in Walton and Galveston are closed today, as well as Carroll Consolidated Schools in Flora, Pioneer Regional Schools in Royal Center and Eastern Pulaski Community Schools in Winamac.
Logansport Community Schools and Caston Schools in Fulton also canceled teacher workdays scheduled for today.
Just after 8 p.m. Sunday, the city of Logansport was declared in a state of emergency,” Cass County highway superintendent Jeff Smith said.
On Sunday, Logansport and county streets crews were doing their best to keep at least some roads driveable.
“County roads are drifted pretty good in some areas,” Cass County Sheriff Randy Pryor said. One accident involving minor injuries had been reported early Sunday on U.S. 35, he said.
“There’ve been several slide-offs, several people getting stuck, sometimes right in the roadway, due to drifting snow,” Pryor said. “Nothing serious so far. Thank goodness for that.”
The county highway department’s seven trucks were working “around the clock,” he added. “They’re doing the best they can, but with the miles of roadway that we have, it’ll be impossible for them to keep every road clear.”
Cass and some surrounding counties were under travel watches late Sunday evening — with only essential travel recommended. Carroll, Pulaski and Miami counties were among Indiana’s 30 counties under travel warnings as of 6 p.m. Sunday, meaning officials urged everyone to stay off the roads unless in an emergency.
Pryor especially urged drivers not to attempt going on roads that may be impassable.
“Be awful careful if you venture out in the morning,” he said. “Make sure the road is open and [you] can get down it. Always be prepared for that wind chill factor.”
Below-zero temperatures and wind gusts are forecast to bring the wind chill factor as low as negative 30 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
“That’s temperatures we haven’t seen in a while,” Pryor commented.
He anticipated potential power outages based on the buildup of ice from rain that fell in the wee hours Sunday morning.
“We haven’t had any reports yet, but there is a possibility,” he said Sunday evening. He suspected ice may bring down power lines, or tree limbs weighed down by ice may fall and take power lines with them.
City and county offices announced they would be closed today. A Logansport City Council meeting scheduled for this evening has been postponed, according to Mayor Ted Franklin. The new date is yet to be determined.
“Right now, trash pickup is one day behind,” Franklin said. “It wouldn’t surprise me to see two days, but it’s all going to depend upon the weather.”
Logansport Municipal Utilities offices are also closed today, he added. Emergency services, like police and fire crews, remain on duty.
City street crews worked overtime Sunday to keep roads somewhat driveable, paying special attention to hills, Franklin said. A team of firefighters certified to drive some of the eight city dump trucks have agreed to help out too, he said.
“We should be able to keep the trucks running for 24 hours, until we get the streets completely cleared,” Franklin said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Sarah Einselen is news editor at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at email@example.com or 574-732-5151. Twitter: @PharosSME