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Local area linked to monster storm


February 09, 2011
While the monster snow and ice storm that hit the Midwest last week didn't directly affect this area, it did have a major impact on several people originally from here. For a few, the situation didn't get quite as bad as expected, but for others the world came to a screeching halt.

St. Louis, now the home of Andrea Lawson-Utley, a 1999 alumnus of North Harrison High School, was one of the first cities to catch the brunt of the storm. Some parts of the city lost power before the main part of the storm even reached the city.

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Abby, front, and Liv Utley, daughters of Andrea Lawson-Utley, have their bags packed for a pretend trip to the beach as they pass the time during the big winter storm. Photo courtesy of Andrea Lawson-Utley
"Power is out, and the actual storm isn't even here, yet," she wrote on her Facebook page last Tuesday morning. "NOT a good sign! 'Storm of the century' please be somewhat kind to us!!"

Fortunately, the Utleys lost power for only a short amount of time. From there, Lawson-Utley said, she, husband Scott and their two daughters, Abby and Liv, tried to make the best of a bad situation.

"Now, we've moved on to baking," she said. "I'm paranoid we are going to lose power again, so I'm cooking and baking like a mad woman. So far, I've got Diet Coke cake and buffalo chicken dip made. It will totally cancel out any calories burned during the feats of strength challenge!!"

Lawson-Utley later said the storm didn't become as severe as originally thought, dropping only a few inches of snow on top of the ice instead of the 12 to 20 inches that were expected.

"It still was bad enough to keep Scott — and everyone else in the bi-state — home from work for a few days, and the kids are on day four of no school," she said.

The storm continued to the east toward Terre Haute, West Lafayette and Indianapolis. In West Lafayette, the campus of Purdue University found itself on the border between the freezing rain and snow. That kept the amounts down to where the situation wasn't quite as severe as expected, though it still was bad enough to cancel classes.

"We have received a lot of ice because we haven't had class the past two days," said Ashley Uhl, of Corydon, and a student at Purdue. "At times we have gotten heavy snow, but we probably only have six inches of snow total, which we have had pretty consistently since school started back. So, we have had bad weather but nothing real exciting. I think it mostly hit north of us."

Last Tuesday afternoon, the storm pounded its way into Greencastle and the DePauw University campus where Trista Wyman, of Marengo, now resides as a student. Wyman said the ice made it tough to get around.

"Today was the first day that DePauw had canceled classes in five years," she said. "We had just started class Monday, Jan. 31. One day of school and we already have a break."

Just to the northeast of Wyman, in Indianapolis, conditions were much worse, with freezing rain and ice having an effect on the city by mid-afternoon.

"Everything is shutting down!" Lana Chinn Riley, originally from Ramsey, said via Facebook. "Fireplace cranked, chili in my belly and safe and sound at home. No snow yet … all ice almost two inches. Snow is coming tomorrow morning."

Riley said by e-mail the next day that many areas were without power but her area lucked out with just a brief outage.

"Mine was off for about 20 minutes, but that was all. … The ice storm was strange, it sounded like my roof was a tin roof," she said. "Then, on top if it, there were very strong winds … There was about two inches of ice on top of the three inches of snow we already had."

In Muncie, the storm also brought everything to a standstill with ice and heavy snow. Ball State University freshman Emily Doss, of New Salisbury, had planned to make a trip to the local Walmart for supplies only to find everything iced over. Doss had to settle for the dormitory store instead.

"We couldn't even make it out," Doss said. "The ice wouldn't come off of the windshield."

The Chicago/Gary area, with 20 inches of snow and high winds causing whiteout and blizzard conditions, was one of the hardest hit. Drifts in some parts of the city were more than eight feet deep, shutting down all the major highways including Lake Shore Drive where many cars and trucks littered the highway. Some drivers stayed with their cars and eventually had to be rescued while others simply abandoned their vehicles to find their own way out.

"It seems the blizzard has begun here in Chicago," Corydon native Matt Esarey said via his Facebook page as the storm hit. "With 20 inches of snow and wind gusts up to 60 miles per hour on the way, it appears I won't be running outside for a couple of days."

Esarey's sister, Sarah, also resides in Chicago, where she is finishing her doctorate in physical therapy. She said it was her first experience in a true blizzard.

"I personally did not leave my apartment once because things were so wild out there," she said by e-mail. "I've definitely never seen anything like it."

"There was even thunder and lightning!" Esarey wrote. "I've never seen that before in a snowstorm! But the wind was definitely the worst part. Blowing SOO hard, and all the snow was completely sideways. We couldn't really see anything out the windows."

Esarey said she had a friend who was one of those stranded on Lake Shore Drive.

"He left work at 4:30, and we talked to him at 9 and he was still parked on Lake Shore," she said. "So, at about 9:30, because the snow was piling up, he had to abandon his car, and go check into the nearest hotel. All the cars are getting towed to different lots throughout the city, and as of yesterday the police department had no idea where his car was."

Esarey said the sight from her own window was unlike anything she had ever seen.

"It's amazing to look outside and literally see cars buried under the snow drifts," she said. "I attempted to dig mine out last night. After an hour, I gave up and decided I'm just going to get it towed if some of the snow doesn't melt in the next day or two — being parallel parked makes it just about impossible."

All of the areas have since worked to recover from the big storm. Back in St. Louis, however, an extra surprise showed up in Lawson-Utley's front yard.

"In addition to that, we got an unexpected SEVEN inches this morning," she wrote in an e-mail Saturday morning, "thus bringing the cancellation total to 4-1/2 days of school, three basketball games and one cheer clinic! Can you say 'CABIN FEVER!?' "

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