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Winter storm puts freeze on state government

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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on Sunday closed state government offices Monday, and the General Assembly postponed the start of its 2014 session until Tuesday due to severe weather.

The state’s appellate courts will also be closed Monday.

Gov. Mike Pence said only “essential personnel” should report to work on Monday.

“We want to ensure that our employees are safe and that Hoosiers have access to critical public services,” Pence said in a prepared statement.

“I am limiting the number of employees who must report to work on Monday to help keep people off the roads and out of the extreme cold, even while we make sure that Hoosiers have access to necessary government services,” he said.

Among those who will be working are state police, transportation crews, prison staff and child abuse hotline workers, said Christie Denault, the governor’s communications director. Also, the state will have Department of Child Services workers available for emergency calls, she said.

Initially, Pence had announced that state officers wouldn’t open until 10, an attempt to avoid the coldest temperatures. But his office announced Sunday afternoon that Pence had decided to cancel most state operations.

Members of the General Assembly had also been scheduled to go to work Monday for a so-called short session that is to last through mid-March.

But the heavy snow falling across the state on Sunday and predictions of frigid temperatures led leaders to postpone for one day. The Senate also pushed back its filing deadline for bills by one day to Jan. 13.

And committee meetings scheduled for Tuesday will go on as scheduled, according to a Senate spokeswoman.

Court officials also announced Sunday afternoon that they would close the Indiana Supreme Court, Indiana Court of Appeals, Indiana Tax Court and their associated offices on Monday.

“We are concerned about the welfare and safety of our employees traveling in these extreme temperatures and want to do our part to keep the roads clear for snow removal and emergency personnel,” said Acting Chief Justice Steven David.

Snow was falling steadily on Sunday in central Indiana and much of northern Indiana with rain to the south. The National Weather Service projected snowfall totals of seven to 14 inches and chilling temperatures early in the week.

“Dangerously cold wind chills of 20 to 45 below zero are expected on Monday and Tuesday,” the weather service said. “Additional accumulating snows are possible for later this week, around Wednesday and Thursday.”

More than 30 counties had restricted travel to emergencies only, as of 4 p.m., according to the Indiana Department of Homeland Security. More than 20 others asked residents to restrict travel to necessary trips only.

Meanwhile, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard said city and county offices will be closed Monday and he asked schools and businesses to do the same.

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