By Jack Molitor
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON — Weather crews are preparing for the worst as the state prepares for the first major winter storm of the season. But the biggest danger could be if the area doesn't see snow.
Harry Maginity, public information officer for the Indiana Department of Transportation's Greenfield Subdistrict, said rain, freezing rain and sleet pose a much greater safety hazard than if the area sees snow. And, according to forecasts, Madison County could be at the edge of the icy conditions. The National Weather Service is predicting anywhere from 2 to 6 inches of snow by tomorrow morning, with heavy sleet and freezing rain during the afternoon turning to a wintry mix at night.
"From what I'm seeing, the storm is moving from the bottom of the state, up to the north, so Anderson could be an area that either gets freezing rain or snow," Maginity said. "If we got snow, it would be a blessing."
Anderson and much of Madison County is encompassed in the Greenfield subdistrict, including much of the heavily traveled Interstate 69 that runs through the county. In order to get ahead of the storm, 28 subdistrict salt and plow trucks set out at 3:30 p.m. in preparation. The trucks will work through the evening until midnight, then a new shift will bring out another 28 trucks to replace them. Parts of I-69 also falls in the Tipton subdistrict, which will have 25 trucks on each shift. Maginity said the trucks will concentrate on the heavily trafficked areas first.
"We're fully mobilized tonight," he said. "It could be a bad one."
INDOT isn't the only agency getting a head start. The City of Anderson Street Department deployed two trucks about 3 p.m. as a precaution, and plans to send out more trucks as it becomes necessary. The department has 18 snow and salt trucks and four more pickup trucks with plows. The city also has other trucks as part of an if-needed snow task force that can have plows added. That would add another 12 to 15 trucks.
"We've been preparing for this all week. All the trucks are ready to go," said department spokesman Walt Welch. "We'll be hitting hills, bridges and busy intersections early on."
Both Maginity and Welch advised motorists that if they don't have to be on the road tonight, don't drive.
"Leave a pretty good distance between you and our trucks, because we'll also be spreading salt, and that's not good for cars," Welch said.
The Indiana Department of Homeland released a statement urging preparation for the winter storm, both at home and on the road. According to the release, those considering going out onto the roads are advised to check the weather forecast and travel conditions prior to leaving, and allow for extra travel time. If driving during the storm is necessary, make sure you have a fully charged and functioning cellphone. A vehicle preparedness kit is also strongly encouraged. Some of the items included in a preparedness kit are extra clothing, nonperishable foods, an ice scraper and flashlights.
The NWS predicts the snowy weather to remain into next week, with some snowfall predicted each day until Tuesday. Temperatures are also expected to remain in the mid 20s to low teens.
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Offer to disabled veterans Chris Brenneman of Outside the Boxx is offering to shovel snow for any disabled veteran in Madison County who is unable to do the job themselves. Brenneman can be reached at 765-639-5458 Warnings from Indiana Department of Homeland Security in preparation for winter storm Don't call city, county or state police to check on road conditions - police agencies across the state want to keep phone lines open for emergency phone calls. Dial toll-free 1-800-261-ROAD (7623) for updated Indiana travel information, including road conditions, road closures, crashes and other traffic alerts. IDHS recommendations for vehicle preparedness kit At least two blankets or a sleeping bag Flashlight and extra batteries Jumper cables Emergency flares Extra clothing, including boots, hats and gloves Shovel Bottled water and nonperishable foods like granola bars, raisins, nuts, peanut butter or cheese crackers First-aid kit and necessary medications Sand or non-clumping kitty litter for tire traction Cellphone and charger for vehicle use Ice scraper and snow brush If You Become Stranded Unless there is a safe structure nearby, do not leave the car, since it is the best protection Run the engine for 10 minutes every hour to stay warm. An idling car only uses about one gallon of gas per hour Tie a brightly colored cloth to the car for rescuers to see Light a flare or turn on a flashlight to let others know you are stranded Make sure the exhaust pipe is free of any blockage to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning Keep hydrated by drinking water from your preparedness kit. Don't eat snow, as it will lower body temperature