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Mayor raises travel emergency level in Indy to 'red'

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The mayor of Indianapolis has upgraded the city's travel emergency level to "red," making it illegal for anyone other than emergency personnel to drive except for emergency purposes or if they are seeking shelter.

The move by Mayor Greg Ballard on Sunday is the first time Indianapolis has issued such a travel warning since the 1978 blizzard.

Ballard said in a news release that he plans to re-evaluate the situation at noon Monday.

At a news conference earlier Sunday, Ballard urged businesses to remain closed Monday, or at least wait until noon to open. The Indianapolis area received 8 inches to 13 inches of snow Sunday.

"This combination of snow and cold is unlike anything we've seen in a long time," he said.

Numerous school districts, colleges, cities and counties in Indiana announced they would be closed Monday as the National Weather Service warned of deadly wind chills as low as 45 below zero possible through Tuesday.

County officials throughout Indiana urged people to stay off the roads Sunday as plow drivers tried to clear snow before the arrival of arctic air. The deep chill in the forecast had Gov. Mike Pence so concerned he put Indiana National Guard members on standby to help out in case of emergencies.

Numerous school districts, colleges, cities and counties announced they would be closed Monday as the National Weather Service warned of deadly wind chills as low as 45 below zero possible through Tuesday.

The General Assembly also postponed the opening day of its 2014 session Monday, and the state appellate courts, including the Indiana Supreme Court, said they would be closed. Pence also announced that all state government offices would be closed, but told essential personnel to report to work to ensure public safety and critical services are available.

Pence says he issued the order because he wants to help keep people off the roads and out of the extreme cold. Pence's announcement early Sunday evening followed earlier announcements that the General Assembly postponed the opening its 2014 session Monday and that state appellate courts, including the Indiana Supreme Court, will be closed.

Areas throughout central and northern Indiana reported receiving 8 inches of snow by late Sunday afternoon. Merrillville, Crown Point and LaPorte in northwest Indiana reported 12 inches, Lebanon 11.5 inches, Michigantown — 40 miles north of Indianapolis — 11 inches, and Churubusco near Fort Wayne got 10 inches.

The weather service said totals in some areas could reach up to 14 inches.

The Indiana Department of Homeland Security reported about 30 counties in northern and central Indiana were asking residents to stay off the roads because of dangerous conditions. Several other counties urged residents to use roads only for essential travel, such as work. The Boone County Sheriff's Department closed State Road 32 because of whiteout conditions.

Indiana State Police said Interstate 70 in western Indiana was snow-covered and hazardous Sunday, with numerous crashes and slide-offs being reported, including three jackknifed tractor-trailers.

Nearly 29,000 customers of Indianapolis Power and Light were without power about 6 p.m. Sunday. Duke Power reported more than 7,000 customers were without power. About 2,300 Indiana Michigan Power customers in Indiana lost service, and Northern Indiana Public Service Co. had 30 in the dark.

In Indianapolis, buildings in parks and at the Marion County Fairgrounds were being opened to provide shelter. The American Red Cross opened three shelters in Indianapolis and another in Muncie. Indianapolis Public Safety Director Troy Riggs said police were only responding to emergency runs and weren't taking accident reports except in cases of serious injury or death.

The governor ordered 24 four-person National Guard teams, each with two vehicles, to be ready to rescue stranded motorists, move people to shelters and assist local emergency management services workers. State officials say more National Guard members may be added if needed.

Armories deploying teams include Brazil, Columbus, Indianapolis, Johnson County, Lebanon, New Albany, Richmond, Scottsburg, Seymour, Shelbyville and Terre Haute.

Carlo Bertolini, a spokesman for the Indianapolis International Airport Authority, said the airport saw about 100 cancellations Sunday, including arrivals and departures. He said the airport did not shut down, even though only about one out of every four flights was operating.

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  • It's gonna be a cold one!
    I think we're finally safe from the threat of snow!
  • More to it than that
    One reason the mayor banned driving for non-emergency personnel was to protect people from being forced to drive to work by any employer that decided to open. People will risk a lot if they think they will be fired and truly, there were roads that were impassable after this storm. After three days some areas are still really treacherous to drive through. I have a friend in his 60s and in poor health that had to dig his car out for two hours in sub zero temperatures because he was "required" to go to work during the worst part of this storm.
  • Not so Fast
    I was stationed in Grandforks for 4 yrs - been to Winnipeg in the Winter - During bad Winter Storms, I don't recall everyone being out side & driving - I am stuck in Indy for my 5th Day from Kansas City - These Roads are no joke - Your Professor is a idiot - by the way - I was a Minute Man Missile Tech & spent 12-16 Days traveling all over rural ND - Cold Temps are 1 thing - These roads are worse than ND or Canada - But drive down & get killed on them if you like
  • that was to...
    That was to Ryan...
  • We're unprepared for this kind of thing
    I'm sorry, but we haven't had weather close to this bad in over 20 years. You live in Winnipeg, Canada. You're used to this kind of weather. Your city is prepared for it. Indy is not. Indy drivers are not. The plain fact is that driving in this weather is dangerous because no one here is prepared for it because we so rarely have to be prepared for it. It's not like we can just go out and be like, "Oh, hey, this weather really isn't bad at all! My car can definitely get through this because I have the mental willpower!"
    • Idiot Communists
      If I lived in Indianapolis I would go drive just to defy the idiots who think they can make laws preventing people from driving. What a bunch of Communists.
    • Silly Alert
      Ridiculous. My University prof jokes about his earlier today, had to see if it was true. Up here in Winnipeg, MB, Canada, those temperatures don't stop us. No red alert here, business as usual. Wear an extra layer! City of Indianapolis, Red alerts are definitely not needed for this.
      • Road closures
        In Chicago a couple of winters ago, there was a winter storm predicted a week in advance, everyone advised to stay home. Of course, people went out and were stuck onLakeshore Drive for hours. People don't have the common sennse they used to, if they get into trouble and they need help, they want emergency workers to come out and help them. I would not go out unless absolutely necessary. Why is that a problem for people? If you feel strongly you need to get out and do something, why don't you volunteer to help emergency workers, or help or volunteer at hospitals or a warming center?
      • not a police state just necessary
        This has nothing to do with a police state or protection, this is so everyone will stay off the street so the road crews can clear them. Unlike last snow when the roads where bad and so many people had driven on them that the plots could not adequately get the compound snow up
      • Police State
        Clearly, we do live in a police state. The excuse is either we are too stupid to take care of ourselves, or there is some presumed danger that "they" are protecting us from. As for me, I will take care of myself regardless of the weather or terrorists. Let those who fail to prepare, suffer the consequences. The price of individual freedom is individual responsibility.
        • It is a police state
          It is a police state, has been since 9/11.
        • Nanny state
          I agree with DadInFishers. It's not about who pays for what but the fact that the government can ticket you for being on the road. I have nothing against the travel warning and the strong encouragement to stay at home. But being forced to stay at home is a new dimension of a nanny state. By the way, the snow fall has stopped, the sun is shining and I don't see a reason not to responsibly drive with my AWD on some snowy roads.
        • Public Safety
          Dear Dad, our government has a responsibility for public safety of its citizens and anyone else in this country. And from what I saw on the roads last Thursday, I appreciate their willingness to protect drivers from the idiots who cannot drive on snow. We all pay for roads collectively through taxes, and the government decided that collectively we are not safe to travel on said roads. So maybe I suggest since you are concerned about not being able to travel on the road you paid for, you find that 1 square foot of road that your tax dollars funded, and you travel that piece of road as much as you please on your snow day!
        • Seems odd
          I heard about travel condition RED on the local news early this morning. I understand the severity of the roads and the cold, but I was struck by the idea that the government can order us to stay in our homes simply because of bad weather -- feels like a police state. What other reasons can the government decide they don't want the people who pay for the roads to not drive on the roads?
          • Article Indy incorrect
            Seems the spokesperson for the airport, might not have been at the airport. 25% of the flights most certainly did not take off. At noon when I went to check in, the lady said I was lucky. Only one flight she knew of took off. My flight was supposedly one of the few not cancelled, but 1 hour later was cancelled. All the restaurants and bars were ordered to close at 2. The flight desk said we would have to rebook on the phone or online, because they were all ordered home.
          • Why are Comcast call centers open
            Most businesses are closed. The mayor issued a RED alert! But, Comcast decided to open and tell employees to report for work!

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