January 7, 2014

Deep freeze: Drifting snow derails cleanup efforts

Drifting snow derails cleanup efforts

By Amie Sites Pharos-Tribune

---- — With major snowfall being the culprit on Sunday, wind and dangerous temperatures took over as the major problems for emergency responders on Monday.

Winds gusting at 25 mph, Cass County highway crews fought a losing battle Monday with drifting snow. Residents watched helplessly as improvements made by a passing snow plow were quickly negated by drifting snow. Also, those high winds pushed the wind chill down to negative 40 degrees.

The snowfall stopped on Sunday, after dropping between 9 and 10 inches, but blowing and drifting snow are expected to continue today, according to the National Weather Service.

As traveling in the area continues to be dangerous, Cass County and Logansport will remain under a state of emergency until today, meaning only emergency vehicles are prohibited on roadways.

The city’s status will be re-evaluated this morning, Logansport Mayor Ted Franklin said.

“The roads are drifting shut quicker than we can clear them. And with the extreme cold, we thought it would be better to keep doing what we’re doing,” Franklin said of the travel restrictions.

Cass County will remain under emergency status until this afternoon, said Cass County Emergency Management Agency director Alvin Beckman. Cass County Commissioner Jim Sailors said the roads and wind are making it difficult for the highway department to keep up.

Beckman agreed.

“The wind is really causing havoc,” Beckman said. “Roads the county has opened are blowing back shut.”

County road crews have worked “around the clock” for two days and will continue to do so, said highway superintendent Jeff Smith.

“A majority of roads are impassable,” Smith said. “We’re now working to respond to people who have power outages or emergencies.”

Although the county and surrounding areas are in a state of emergency, residents continue to venture out. Vehicles are getting stuck in the roadway. Some drivers have even abandoned their vehicles, which means the highway department can’t get through, Smith said.

“It is likely anyone who travels will get stuck,” Smith said. “My advice is to stay home, because you could become stranded in a dangerous situation.”

For some, those dangerous situations were inside their own homes. With actual temperatures falling to negative 13 degrees, 20 to 40 homes were without power Monday in Galveston and Young America. Beckman said ermergency responders were working to get those people to a location with heat.

Emergency shelters were operational at the Young America Fire Station, Galveston United Methodist Church and Logansport Salvation Army.

Along with leaving houses without power for hours, the drifting snow caused problems for those needing transportation to dialysis and other medical treatments, Beckman said.

County highway crews worked with EMA officials to clear the roadway so those needing transportation could receive treatment.

But unless your situation as is pertinent as those residents’, Franklin advises, it’s best to stay inside. The low temperatures sweeping across much of the country should be considered extremely dangerous.

Some area residents can’t help but compare the current conditions to those of the blizzard of 1978. Facebook was abuzz Monday with pictures of that storm and pictures of the current snowstorm.

Despite the comparisons, some say this is nothing compared what the area endured in 1978.

Thelma Conrad, Cass County Historical Society executive director, recalls having young children when the blizzard of ‘78 hit. Making her home in the country at that time, Conrad said she can remember the snow drifting so high the garage door wouldn’t open. Also, she recalled, bread was delivered to their house on snowmobiles. She said she had never seen anything like it.

Even though it doesn’t compare to the blizzard of ‘78, this storm brought its fair share of cancellations, which will continue today as will the extreme cold and strong winds.

Southeastern School Corp., Carroll School Corp. and Logansport Schools will not meet today. Carroll White REMC offices will also be closed today. Ivy Tech Community College Kokomo Region will be closed today, with spring semester classes being scheduled to begin Jan. 13.

Amie Sites is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5117 or Follow her: @PharosAES.