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Roads worsening, power outages hit 1,000

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Road conditions aren’t improving, more snow is falling and temperatures are dropping, and power outages are becoming an increasing concern tonight.

More than 1,000 customers in Johnson County were without power at 7:30 p.m., almost all in Greenwood and the Center Grove area.

Heavy snow that fell throughout the day is weighing down tree limbs, which are breaking off and taking down power lines, officials said. The number of homes without power has been steadily increasing since this afternoon, when about 200 customers didn’t have electricity.

By 8 p.m.. the temperature was about 25 degrees and falling in Franklin and Greenwood, and 11 inches of snow had fallen in Greenwood, National Weather Service meteorologist Michael Koch said.

Near Bargersville, only about 3 inches of snow had fallen, he said. The snow should stop by 10 p.m., and about an inch more was expected to fall before then across the county, he said.

But the wind was starting to pick up, and by midnight temperatures were expected to drop to 10 degrees, he said. By 7 a.m. tomorrow, the temperature was expected to be 10 below zero, Koch said.

Mayors of both Franklin and Greenwood are asking local businesses to heed the travel warning in the county, which calls for no one to be traveling, except in emergencies.

Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers advised businesses to stay closed Monday, and Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness said companies should use their best judgment if they consider opening.

“Since the county has enacted the weather advisory, we’re hoping the businesses will close and people shouldn’t be traveling for any reason except emergencies,” Myers said.

Johnson County officials called today's storm a snow emergency and issued a travel warning Sunday afternoon, meaning only emergency vehicles or motorists with an emergency should drive to keep safe and so plows can clear snow off the streets.

The warning, which allows police to write tickets for drivers out on the roads, doesn't mean businesses can't open Monday, Johnson County Emergency Management Director Stephanie Sichting said.

"We can’t tell businesses they can’t open. We’re strongly suggesting, for the sake of their employees and their customers, that they not open," she said.

The police aren't likely to write tickets to motorists just because they're out driving. But because of the road conditions, motorists need to realize it's dangerous to drive and they might not get immediate help if they have an accident, she said.

"We’ve known from past experiences that people will get out. They need to realize that if they get out and they slide off the road, it’s going to take along time for them to get help," she said.

County highway workers were focusing on clearing main roads, such as Whiteland and Airport roads, because snow was blowing and covering what they plowed, county commissioner Brian Baird said.

They worked all day today and likely won’t be caught up by the end of Monday, he said.

“They’ll be working around the clock until we get control of the roads,” he said.

Snow continues to fall and it has changed from large, wet flakes to lighter snow that is more prone to blowing. Since winds have picked up this evening, road crews are now also dealing with snow drifting onto roads, McGuinness said.

The poor road conditions are slowing down efforts to repair downed power lines, Duke Energy spokesman Lew Middleton said.

A total of 966 Duke Energy customers were without service as well as 125 Johnson County REMC customers.

“Our repair crews are just having a really difficult time just getting around with all of the snow and the roads. It’s really tough just getting to where they need to get to to make repairs and trying to make repairs in the wind and cold and everything is very difficult,” Middleton said.

Johnson County REMC workers are repairing outages within two hours, but that repair time could increase if more outages are reported, spokesman Chet Aubin said.

All of Johnson County REMC’s outages are on the west side of Johnson County, while Duke Energy has most of its outages in areas near U.S. 31. Crews were working on a repair in the Carefree subdivision in the Center Grove area around 7:30 p.m., which was affecting about 50 residents, Middleton said.

Temperatures have fallen since the sun went down and winds are increasing, which is making repairs more dangerous for workers exposed to the weather in bucket trucks, Aubin said. Both Duke and Johnson County REMC are sending multiple people to each repair so workers can rotate in and out of the cold.

A shelter at Franklin Community Middle School had not opened Sunday evening, but could if power outages become more widespread, McGuinness said. Greenwood had not set up any shelters in the city, but could later tonight if necessary, Myers said.

Road crews are continuing to work but not making progress against the snow Sunday night, McGuinness said. Plows were able to get most of the slush off of Franklin roads, which has prevented it from freezing into chunks of ice, but heavy snow blown by increasing winds is covering roads within minutes of a plow clearing it.

Greenwood crews are focusing on main roads in the city, while most side streets and subdivisions are not being plowed, Myers said. Greenwood sent out a few lighter trucks with plows starting at 7 p.m. to start clearing some side streets, but most residents should not expect to have their roads cleared by morning, he said.

McGuinness expected road conditions to worsen overnight as wind speeds pick up and temperatures plummet, making road salt less effective.

More snow fell in northern areas of the county where as much as 11 inches came down in Greenwood. Franklin received less as the city was on the border between snow and rain for most of the day. Northern parts of the city received up to 3 inches more snow than other areas in southern Franklin, McGuinness said.

Throughout the state, Indiana highway department workers were attempting to clear roads, but couldn’t stay ahead of the snowfall, according to a news release. Indianapolis hired private contractors to help clear streets.

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