Commuters headed back to work and out onto the roads Tuesday, finding many covered in ice and packed-down snow.
For some, the drive was too much, and they turned around and headed back home. Others spent twice as long in their cars, driving at slow speeds because of the ice or diverting around Interstate 65, which was closed for much of the day Tuesday due to icy conditions and multiple jackknifed semitrailers. U.S. 31 was backed up most of the day by a long line of semis that were forced off the interstate.
Tuesday was the first full day after the county lifted travel restrictions, and drivers found that cold temperatures and blowing snow hampered plows’ ability to clear the roads of all ice and snow.
All Johnson County public schools are closed today for the third day in a row.
Bernie Kellar of Greenwood began driving to work in Fishers before 8 a.m. Tuesday but turned around and headed home when his pickup truck slid on the ice. The few other vehicles out also were slipping because the roads were covered with ice in most places, he said.
“I slid enough that I knew I didn’t need to be out,” he said.
The roads in Greenwood were as slick Tuesday as they were Monday before the county lifted a travel warning that banned all non-emergency travel, Mayor Mark Myers said.
Traffic on Tuesday moved slowly throughout the county, and vehicles continued to slide off the road as they had Sunday and Monday. Since 10 a.m. Monday, Franklin police handled eight slide-offs, eight vehicles stuck in the snow and three accidents. The sheriff’s office worked 12 slide-offs and three accidents between 7 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. Tuesday.
Stretch of interstate closed
Indiana State Police closed northbound lanes of I-65 between the Taylorsville and Whiteland exits Tuesday morning, and the interstate remained closed until after 3 p.m. as crews worked to remove jackknifed semitrailers and break up ice that caused the slide-offs, Sgt. Rich Myers said. The closed interstate led to traffic backups along both U.S. 31 and near truck stops along Whiteland Road.
“That stretch is just a sheet of ice right now, and they can’t get it off the asphalt right now,” Myers said Tuesday afternoon.
Indiana Department of Transportation road crews were making progress breaking up the ice, spokesman Harry Maginity said.
“We had four trucks going over and over that area, plowing snow and treating the ice with a mixture of salt and magnesium chloride,” he said. “The sun is out, and that’s helping. What would help us more is to get cars and trucks back on that stretch because vehicular traffic helps the ice melt do its job.”
The state reopened the section of I-65 on Tuesday afternoon but would reclose the highway overnight if temperatures dropped low enough below zero to freeze the salt mixture as well as the water, Maginity said. Two lanes in each direction were reopened, but he recommended that motorists stay in the right lane because it was clearer than the passing lanes, he said.
Traffic on sections of I-65 that were open drove at about half the 70 mph speed limit Tuesday morning, and patches of asphalt were showing through the ice and packed snow.
Temperatures heading up
Highway crews had been working to chip away at the ice and pour down salt and a chemical to help the salt melt ice at temperatures down to zero, Maginity said. Rising temperatures Tuesday and today would help clear the highways, he said.
About 11 inches of snow fell in Greenwood on Sunday. Franklin got less, and towns farther south had even less, according to the National Weather Service. Temperatures stayed below zero from about 1 a.m. Monday through Tuesday at noon but were expected to get to a high of 6 degrees by late Tuesday night, meteorologist Joseph Nield said. Rain and then the inches of snow that fell after it left a sheet of ice on state highways and local streets.
High temperatures were expected to reach the mid-20s today and possibly into the low 40s over the weekend, he said.
More than 1,000 residents in Johnson County lost power during Sunday’s snowstorm and afterward, but most had regained power by Tuesday.
Eight homes on Fairfax Court in Greenwood and 21 houses in Franklin had their electricity go out about 7:15 a.m. Tuesday, Duke Energy spokesman Lew Middleton said. In Franklin, nine of the homes were on Niagara Lane and 12 were on Fiesta Drive. Repairs were made, and the power was back on by 11:30 a.m. for all except one customer, he said. Johnson County REMC reported no power outages for their customers Tuesday morning.
Residents without electricity were told to go to Franklin’s recreation center and the Greenwood Community Center to stay warm, but none chose to take shelter at the Franklin location. Two people were staying at the Greenwood Community Center as of Tuesday morning, and a total of three were sheltered there after the storm.
Whiteland road crews were doing a good job plowing streets but had left a mound of snow in the driveway of Sharon Wheeler, who lives on Park Forest Drive North.
Snow was piled about three feet high — nearly to the bottom of her mailbox — Tuesday morning, and she was concerned she and her husband wouldn’t be able to leave home if they had a medical emergency, Sharon Wheeler said.
Clearing driveways is the responsibility of homeowners, town manager David Capozzi said.
Plow drivers continued working to clear the streets and will continue that work today.
Road crews would be out spreading salt in Franklin until all of the ice and snow on the streets have melted, Mayor Joe McGuinness said.
“It’s not going to melt in the next day or two. Unfortunately at this time it’s beyond our control. With the extreme frigid temperatures, the salt is going to work, but it’s going to take some time,” he said.
The Greenwood street department was continuing to plow and was having trucks spread a chemical to help salt already on the streets make the snow melt, Myers said. The mixture was freezing inside the trucks that were spreading it, though, which temporarily halted progress, he added.
During the day Tuesday, plow crews were focusing on clearing sections of Smith Valley Road, Curry Road, Honey Creek Road and Main Street, where wind was blowing snow across the streets, Myers said. The plan was to allow the trucks spreading the chemical to warm up and then continue pouring the mix on the streets.
In Franklin, traffic was helping ice on the roads break up and thaw Tuesday morning, McGuinness said. Higher traffic streets such as Walnut and Main streets were turning slushy and safer for driving, but neighborhood streets still had hard ice on them, he said.
“Yesterday, we didn’t see any asphalt. Today, we’re seeing quite a bit,” he said.