Local Government and State Government and Public Safety and Government & Economic Development and Government

Indianapolis mayor wants another day of closures

January 6, 2014
Blizzard 2014-01-06
Blizzard conditions left the city at a near-standstill on Sunday (AP Photo)

The mayor of Indianapolis said he will be lifting the city's ban on non-emergency travel at noon Monday although he wants schools and businesses to remain closed another day until the worst of the severe cold passes.

Mayor Greg Ballard said Monday morning that people are being put into a dangerous situation if they are told by their employers that they must show up at work. He said while main streets are largely cleared from Sunday's heavy snowfall, the wind chills near 40 below zero pose a deadly threat.

Ballard enacted a "red" travel emergency Sunday that made it illegal for residents to travel city streets except for emergency purposes. That level will fall to "orange" at noon Monday, which calls for essential travel only.

Indianapolis Power and Light Co. reported about 30,000 homes and businesses were without electricity in the city. Utility officials say it could be Thursday before many of the outages are repaired.

Ballard said emergency crews have taken about 400 people who've lost power to shelters.

Indiana authorities had a simple message Monday for anyone considering braving the state's icy roads, biting winds and subzero temperatures: Stay home.

Many of the state's schools, businesses and municipal offices remained closed with much of the state blanketed in about a foot of snow that fell Sunday and with wind chills through Tuesday that could reach a deadly 45 degrees below zero, according to the National Weather Service.

"I know the roads look clear, the sun's out and it all looks nice," Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard said Monday. "But it's still minus 40 in wind chill — deadly temperatures. So we want to be very, very careful."

Emergency officials warned people to stay off the roads, many of which were rendered impassable because of the snow and wind. At least one person has died from a crash on snow-covered roads.

Highway officials have closed two major highways in northwestern Indiana — Interstate 65 between Lafayette and Merrillville and I-80/94 from the Illinois state line to Michigan City — along with many state and local roads.

Indiana Department of Homeland spokesman John Erickson said National Guard crews were contributing highway and roadside assistance and helping emergency medical services reach patients.

Most counties in the northern two-thirds of the state issued warnings asking everyone except emergency workers to avoid travel.

Erickson said even some emergency vehicles were having trouble in the snow.

"If you have to be out today, use common sense," he said.

Temperatures reached 14 below zero in Indianapolis with a wind chill of minus-39 Monday morning. It reached 12 below zero in Fort Wayne and Terre Haute — and even 2 below zero in Evansville in far southern Indiana.

Indiana's major electricity providers reported more than 40,000 power outages around the state after Sunday's snowstorm, which packed 35-mph wind gusts and caused many tree limbs to fall on power lines.

Indianapolis had the most outages, with power still out for nearly 27,000 homes and businesses as of Monday morning. A couple thousand outages each were reported in the Terre Haute area and central Indiana's Tipton County.

Ann Gregson, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross' Indianapolis region, said that more than 100 people — and likely considerable more — had checked in to one of the state's 14 Red Cross shelters.

She said a shelter in Lafayette received 60 people who began arriving in the early morning hours of Monday after being driven from their homes by power outages.

Much of the power was out Monday morning in the small Tipton County community of Sharpsville, about 30 miles north of Indianapolis. Tipton County emergency management director Chuck Bell told WTHR-TV that most of the town's residents decided to stay home but that some were helped to shelters.

Indianapolis' highways and major streets were largely empty of traffic Monday morning after Ballard issued the city's first red level travel warning since a blizzard paralyzed the city in January 1978.

State police said 41-year-old Christopher Hutchings of Richmond died Sunday in a crash at U.S. 40 and Indiana 3 in eastern Indiana's Henry County. His car was traveling too fast on the snow-covered road and slid into the path of a pickup truck, police said.

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