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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Weather wreaks road havoc

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

A semi-truck driver carefully maneuvers south on U.S. 231 through Greencastle Tuesday afternoon as highways become slick and hazardous.
Old Man Winter struck Putnam County with a vengeance Tuesday morning, causing numerous car accidents and traffic delays that lingered well into the evening.

Soon after the snow began to fall, at around 10 a.m., a three-car pile-up on U.S. 231 at Plessinger's Hill north of U.S. 40 forced the closure of that highway for more than an hour.

According to police reports, Brittany Gray, 17, Cloverdale, was headed southbound in her 1996 Dodge Neon when she lost control on the snow-covered roadway and spun into oncoming traffic.

Sheriff's Deputy Mike Johnson said Gray's car slid into the northbound lane of the highway, striking a pick-up truck driven by Timothy Tyree, 47, Brazil.

He said Gray's car continued to spin, striking a northbound passenger car driven by Charles Ring, 50, Vincennes, before finally coming to rest on the east side of the highway.

Gray was ejected from her vehicle and was lying face down in the ditch when Johnson arrived at the accident scene.

Johnson said Gray was conscious and did not appear to be seriously injured. She was transferred to Putnam County Hospital with scratches on her face and leg and was reporting neck pain, Johnson said.

"I don't know how she survived," Johnson said after the accident. "She looked good for being ejected."

Johnson said Tyree was also taken to the hospital and reported having soreness in his chest.

The other driver was not injured, but Johnson estimated that all three vehicles were severely damaged.

Following the accident, Plessinger's Hill continued to be a problem throughout the day for drivers, especially semi-tractor trailers that routinely have trouble getting up the hill.

"All evening long we had to open it, shut it, open it, shut it," Johnson said of the road.

It seemed the snow was coming down too fast and the traffic was too congested for snow plow crews to keep up.

Fred West, superintendent for the Cloverdale INDOT garage, said his crews did their best to keep the highway clear in that area, but with the traffic backing up, the snow plows couldn't get in to clear the roads.

"All it takes is one bobble and then it stops everything," West said.

On the opposite side of Greencastle, but also on U.S. 231, Waterworks Hill was again problematic for at least one vehicle that slid off the road and snarled traffic for a while.

West said that outside those accidents and a massive pile-up on Interstate 70, the snow-removal effort went well.

"I think we did a pretty good job," he said.

Indiana State Police Lt. George Schneider said there was a 20-car pile-up at the 62-mile marker of I-70, in Hendricks County, at about 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Schneider said a large truck overturned on top of a pick-up truck with a male driver inside the vehicle. He said he was not sure of the man's injuries, but he did not think it was a fatal accident.

"It was closed just until we could get things sorted out," Schneider said of the road.

In all, the Putnam County 911 dispatch center received more than 40 calls for weather-related accidents and slide-offs from 10 a.m. Tuesday to 7 a.m. Wednesday, the most serious being the three-car accident on Plessinger's Hill.

Most of the area was blanketed with about 6 inches of snow, which made for dangerous roads through Wednesday morning.

On Wednesday, students got the day off at Cloverdale, South Putnam and North Putnam while Greencastle students managed a two-hour delay for the third time this week.

CCSC Supt. Carrie Milner said she made the decision to close school due to the road conditions and frigid temperatures near zero.

"We're looking at a lot of hills and valleys and unplowed roads," Milner gave as the reason for canceling school for the day.

She said she hopes county snow crews will have time to clear the roads for school to start Thursday.

No one answered the phones at the North Putnam and South Putnam superintendents' offices Wednesday morning.

Putnam County Highway Supt. Dave Sutherlin said all 10 of the county's snow trucks and two road graders were out in force Tuesday and would continue working on Wednesday.

He said he hoped they would be able to get to all the roads by the end of the day Wednesday.

Greencastle Supt. Bob Green said he made the decision to operate the schools on a two-hour delay after talking to bus route drivers Wednesday morning.

He said the drivers were out inspecting their routes all night and that they felt it would be safe to operate the snow routes only, meaning they didn't pick up children on gravel roads.

Green said parents of those children have the option of driving their children to school or meeting the bus at the nearest paved road. If the parents cannot get out to bring their children to school, those students are given an excused absence.

Around the state Tuesday, snowfall wreaked havoc on many interstates, including one fatality on I-65 between Columbus and Seymour. The Indiana State Police did not immediately release the names of those involved.

The forecast for today is calling for temperatures in the upper teens and lows near zero again Thursday morning.

Tuesday's snowfall was the most recorded on any day so far this season.

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