Mark Hunter (ozma914) wrote,
Mark Hunter

Northeast Indiana Sideswiped by Blizzard

Yeah, just my article on the storm. It was pretty mild around here, by blizzard standards, although probably still in the top ten storms of the last 25-30 years. It seemed like we used to have one of these every couple of weeks, but the last several years most seem to have passed us by.  I preferred it that way.

Also, some not dial-up friendly photos:


The Blizzard of 2011 may not have equaled ’78 for its impact in northeast Indiana, but it certainly was one for the books.

The storm steamrolled across nearly half the country last week, affecting well over a hundred million people with blizzard conditions in the north, an ice storm in the middle, and heavy thunderstorms in the south. Locally, most northern 
Indiana counties declared states of emergency, and normal life ground to a standstill Tuesday night and Wednesday.

At least twelve deaths were attributed to the storm’s effects, as it cut a swath over 2,000 miles long from Texas and 
Oklahoma to the already hard hit northeast. Many other people were endangered, and officials made numerous runs to check on and rescue stranded motorists. Others struggled to stay warm during scattered power outages, often in areas where the weather brought unusually cold temperatures.

While the official snowfall in northeast Indiana was 10.6 inches, measured amounts ranged higher, with an unofficial total of a foot near Churubusco. That was far from the only problem: Winds gusted up to 50 mph and were sustained above 35 mph for hours, causing high drifts that plow drivers couldn’t keep up with. To make matters worse, sleet fell between the bands of snow, making the snow heavier and harder to move.

Although the Indiana Department of Transportation kept plows operating all through the night, they were unable to keep up, and at least one was put out of commission in a Lagrange County wreck. Another became stuck on US 33, near CR 50 W, when it encountered a snow drift so large and heavy that it couldn’t be moved. The truck, a police car, and other vehicles were stuck there until a backhoe could be brought in to cut a path. US 33 was also blocked for a time near the 
Kimmell Bridge.

Most county roads became impassable, and police fielded numerous reports of motorists stranded in drifts. Four wheel drive vehicles from fire departments and police agencies stayed busy helping stranded drivers. Noble County Highway snowplows were assigned to every fire department in the county, in case they needed to clear the way for fires or medical emergencies, and responded several times to locations drifted so badly even four wheel drives couldn’t reach them.

The Noble County Commissioners issued a Level 2 Snow Emergency Tuesday, and Tuesday night upgraded it to a Level 1 Emergency, which bans all but emergency traffic on county roads. Despite that, in the first two days of February the Noble County Sheriff’s Department received 71 reports of disabled vehicles; 20 slide-offs; 9 accidents involving property damage; 2 roadway obstructions; and 2 requests for citizen assists.

Most tow truck drivers stopped coming out until after daybreak on Wednesday, when County and municipal plow crews started running and often had to have vehicles moved before they could continue. Plows at all levels of government stayed out all day Wednesday, and came out again early Thursday for another full day.

Many of the stranded drivers were people caught at work or other places who were trying to make it home. However, area police agencies issued a few warnings Wednesday to drivers who ventured out. The Snow Emergency was dropped back to Level 2 Wednesday night, and that was canceled Thursday evening.

Naturally, all area schools were closed, along with all Noble County Government offices, county libraries, and many other services and businesses.

Elsewhere in the state an INDOT snowplow was heavily damaged when it rolled over. An Albion snowplow backed into a parked vehicle on the north side of town, reportedly causing a small amount of damage, but other than that and the wrecked plow in LaGrange County, no serious plowing incidents were reported.

More than 80,000 customers went without power in Indiana, especially in central parts of the state where freezing rain was the primary problem. Much further south, temperatures in parts of Mexico got into the single digits, and ice brought everything to a standstill.

Although no injuries were reported in Noble County, a driver had a close call near Ligonier early Thursday. Daniel Hoover, 25, was standing by his disabled vehicle near county roads 200 N and 900 W at about 5:20 a.m. when a pickup slammed into his vehicle, narrowly missing him, then took off eastbound. Police were unable to locate the truck, which was believed to be heavily damage.

An Indiana State Trooper had a similar experience elsewhere in the state when a vehicle slammed into his parked squad car while he was sitting in it, working on paperwork at an accident scene. Four police cars were reportedly hit by other drivers.

The National Weather Service confirmed that the Noble County part of the storm did, indeed, meet the technical definition of a blizzard, with sustained winds of 35 mph or more and reduced visibility for three hours or more. The total official snowfall in Fort Wayne was ten inches, which came in two different weather fronts that were both part of the same system.

That gives the total official snowfall for this season to 32 inches, less than half the 81.2 inches in 1981-82 and a little more than half the amount from the infamous 1977-78 season. However, forecasters are quick to point out that there’s plenty of winter still to come – unless the Groundhog is right about spring being right around the corner.

Things were much, much worse in other areas. More than 20 inches of snow fell in Chicago, coming close to a 
record, and a major interstate in Missouri was closed down completely. Areas of Texas were paralyzed by a rare major snowfall that caused rolling power blackouts across the state. Hundreds of thousands of other customers lost power completely in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and other areas.

Tags: albion, weather, winter

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