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Tom Elswick and Jill Timberlake find that walking was the best way to get around in the middle of last week’s storm. The pair were on their way to T-Mart for some refreshments. Photos by Wade Bell

"It's 'snow going' for area

February 17, 2010
The bad weather came, then came again, and it didn't get much better for days on end.

On the weekend of Jan. 30, snow fell and slowed things down a bit, but most businesses and schools were able to open on the following Monday. The snow remained for a few days in most areas until temperatures warmed a little.

But on Monday, Feb. 8, forecasters were calling for more snow and low temperatures that evening. It started after dark, with small flakes, appearing to accumulate slowly. But it just kept coming down and, by morning, there were 3 to 4 inches in some areas and even more in others.

Last Tuesday, as more snow fell, the winds increased, causing snow to drift on some roads and along fence rows. Temperatures plunged, freezing many roads; schools, libraries and even some small businesses closed.

Ronnie Coleman, top, and four others pile on a truck tube last Tuesday afternoon during last week’s snowstorm that dropped 6 to 7 inches on the area.
The Crawford County Judicial Complex in English was closed before noon on Tuesday and employees were sent home after road conditions worsened during the day. The courthouse reopened Thursday, but Crawford County schools remained closed until Friday, when they opened with a two-hour delay due to hazardous road conditions.

"Our crews have been working 13-hour days since this thing started," Sandy Richardson, Crawford County highway department secretary, said. "We'd get a road plowed then have to go back and do it again due to the drifting of the snow. It seemed like we were fighting a losing battle for a while. It seemed like everything we did had to be redone. On Wednesday, the phone rang off the hook. People wanted to know why we hadn't gotten to their road or wanted to know what time we'd be there. And there was no way to predict when we could get to a lot of roads. We have over 1,000 miles of roads to clear and that takes a lot of work and man-hours."

Crawford County has nine snowplows, including the road graders. The county doesn't buy salt for the roads, and there isn't a close source for cinders, so small gravel, called 11s, is used to help in areas where traction is limited, like hills and intersections.

"At the beginning of the winter, our barns in Districts 1 and 2 were full of gravel," Richardson said Thursday. "But now, they're almost empty, and the quarry is out, as well. They're in the process of making more, and, according to the forecast, we're going to need it. Snow removal is not included in our budget, but it's going to be costly this year. And I'm sure we'll be out plowing again this coming weekend. It just keeps coming."

The forecast called for snow to begin again on Valentine's Day with scattered flurries and to begin coming down in earnest late Sunday night and Monday. And Mother Nature kept her end of the bargain. Although there was little accumulation Sunday afternoon, a powder-like snow began to fall late Sunday evening and, by daylight Monday morning, more than 4 inches had accumulated in most Southern Indiana counties and many areas were experiencing problems with drifting snow.

Presidents Day brought the closing of the Crawford County Judicial Complex and other government offices on Monday, but it's likely that the weather would have kept most workers home anyway.

"Actually, we were supposed to be off today also, but the weather changed things," Richardson said Monday morning. "The guys all got here early, and we have all our plows out working, but it's going to take a while. They were saying that there was about 4 inches of snow in Milltown, but I think there's more than that here in English. We were able to get more gravel into our barns on Friday, so that will help. But they're calling for a snow mixed with ice possible on next Friday and Saturday, so I'm not sure we'll get caught up."

In a press release from the Indiana State Police, Sgt. Chad Dick advised motorists to use caution near snow plows.

•Give snowplows room to work. The plows are wide and can cross the centerline or shoulder. Don't tailgate and try not to pass. Remember, the road behind the plow is always better than the road in front of the plow.

•Snowplows travel below the posted speed limit. Be patient. Allow plenty of time to slow down. Remember, ice and snow, take it slow.

•A snowplow operator's field of vision is restricted. You may see them, but they don't always see you. Keep your distance and watch for sudden stops and turns.

Motorists are reminded that Indiana law requires them to approach cautiously when an emergency vehicle or highway service vehicle is stopped on two- or four-lane roadways with emergency lights flashing. The intent of this law is to protect the emergency and highway personnel who serve the public.

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