The day after Christmas turned white as a blizzard dumped up to 11 inches of snow on areas of Johnson County.
Hundreds of businesses closed, and police told motorists to stay off local streets or face a ticket. Even Greenwood Park Mall shut down on what has traditionally been one of the busiest shopping days of the year.
Local governments sent out more than 30 snow plows before the storm hit, but were unable to keep up with the blowing and falling snow. Snow started falling after 2 a.m. Wednesday and tapered off by 3 p.m.
Dozens of police cars, snow plow trucks and other vehicles slid off or got stuck on the roads, and city and county officials declared snow emergencies, limiting travel to emergency vehicles. The county did not close any roads, but side streets were often not passable.
Some businesses closed early, sending their employees home after the emergency declarations were made. And the Indiana National Guard sent more than 100 troops across the state to help communities after the blizzard.
Hospitals began preparing for the storm on Christmas by having nurses and doctors come in early. Private plow truck drivers planned for a long day, clearing grocery store and medical building parking lots.
Johnson County received up to 11 inches of snow — more than the 9.8 inches of snow the county received all of last winter, according to the National Weather Service.
Most of the storm had passed by early afternoon, leaving about 7 inches of snow in the northern part of the county and 11 inches in the southern part, National Weather Service meteorologist John Kwiatkowski said.
The storm is the first in Johnson County to be called a blizzard since 1978. The county had other large storms in 2007 and 2011, but Wednesday’s storm brought more snow and stronger winds, Kwiatkowski said. A blizzard is a storm in which snow and strong winds combine to cause nearly zero visibility.
Police said that lack of visibility was a struggle for motorists, and more than 60 vehicles slid off the road.
Greenwood Assistant Police Chief Matt Fillenwarth said he couldn’t see 100 feet in front of his car, and multiple Franklin police officers’ cars got stuck while responding to emergency calls.
The struggles of emergency workers was a key reason Franklin, Greenwood and county officials declared a snow emergency, telling motorists to stay off the roads.
The number of slide-offs was a key reason for the declaration in Greenwood, Mayor Mark Myers said.
Motorists were putting themselves at risk by being out on the roads, and emergency workers were struggling to respond to all the calls they were receiving on the snowy roads, Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness said.
The declaration limits travel to emergency vehicles, and motorists could face a ticket if they violate the order, police said.
“If you don’t need to be out, you shouldn’t be,” Fillenwarth said.
The county began planning for the snow storm Monday by organizing snow plow shifts and working with county, city and town officials so everyone knew what kind of weather to expect, Johnson County Emergency Management Agency Administrative Assistant Stephanie Sichting said.
By the time snow started falling, county, Franklin and Greenwood employees had already salted streets, and 12-hour snow plow shifts were set up, Sichting said.
Snow plow drivers first cleared main roads in Franklin, Greenwood and the county before moving onto side roads and neighborhoods after the snow stopped. Snow plow drivers would most likely not get to the side streets until 7 or 8 p.m. Wednesday, Johnson County Highway Department Director Luke Mastin said.
Clearing all the side streets would take at least a day, Mastin said.
No additional snow was expected Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.