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Editorial: Preparedness helped county navigate storm

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When the temperature finally climbed from subzero and single-digits into the 20s last week, it felt downright balmy by comparison.

And when stretches of pavement began to appear from under a blanket of ice, motorists knew the worst of a tough winter storm was behind us.

Mother Nature threw a haymaker punch at the county, but we endured it. And much of the thanks should go to local officials for planning before the storm hit and the tireless efforts of emergency and highway crews during and after the storm.

Because of ever more sophisticated forecasting tools, meteorologists were able to predict with greater confidence when the storm would hit. As a result, local agencies began forming emergency plans days in advance. Snowplow drivers were prepared to work long shifts, and salt trucks began pretreating roads.

Police and fire departments and local utilities had additional staff ready to work and had a plan to rotate workers, so they could stay out of the frigid air as much as possible.

Plans were developed to open emergency shelters across the county to house people whose homes had lost power. While few people needed to avail themselves of the shelters, it was reassuring to know they were there and ready.

All of the work paid off handsomely.

When the bottom fell out of the thermometer, snow fell and the wind picked up, the Johnson County Board of Commissioners wisely issued a ban on non-emergency travel. This gave crews more of a chance to get ahead of the elements in clearing roads.

In turn, local school officials wisely called off school not just for the travel-restricted days but longer so that youngsters wouldn’t be forced to wait for a bus in subzero wind chills and the bus drivers wouldn’t have to navigate skating-rink-like conditions.

Before the storm hit, Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Harry Maginity said: “We’re looking to have another snow fight, and according to the weathermen it’s going to be the worst one yet.”

Like the weather forecast itself, Maginity was spot on.

Last week’s weather didn’t match the snow from 1978 or the cold on Jan. 19, 1994, when New Whiteland recorded a low of 36 degrees below zero. But the storm did deliver a one-two punch of snow and cold that was almost unprecedented locally.

We got through it by exercising caution and perseverance and with a great deal help from local officials who were ready for the worst.

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