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Friday, May 6, 2016

Emergency declaration means stay off roads

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Downtown Greencastle sidewalks get cleared by a motorized snowblower Wednesday morning.
Snow and ice blanketed Putnam County throughout the day and night Tuesday creating havoc on the roadways for motorists, and forcing the county to be put under a snow emergency.

So what exactly is a snow emergency and what does it mean for county residents?

According County Commissioners' Ordinance 1999-2-15, an ordinance concerning travel upon county roads during a declared local emergency, a snow emergency is when county officials determine that all roads maintained by the Putnam County Highway Department are impassable and extremely hazardous.

Residents who are away from their homes are recommended to return home and should be prepared to stay there for an extended period of time. If a vehicle becomes stranded, the owner must have their vehicle removed from the roadway.

Currently, the county has three classifications of weather emergencies to help control the highways. At noon Tuesday, county officials declared that Putnam County was under a Level 1 snow emergency.

According to the ordinance, that means:

-- "Roadways are snow/ice covered with severe drifting of county roads. Most county roads are partially opened with the possibility of one lane passable drifted shut. Motorists shall travel at their own risk and they may be in violation of this Ordinance if they are: on any county road, or right-of-way thereof, blocking or impeding the travel of any vehicle, including any blocking or impediment caused by their stuck, stalled or abandoned vehicle.

Around 3 p.m., county officials declared a Level 2 snow emergency, which means:

-- "Roads/streets/highways are impassable and extremely hazardous. Roads are totally snow/ice covered and drifted. Citizens are recommended to stay inside dwellings. No one should travel during these conditions unless they are exempt as listed."

Those that are allowed to travel on the roadways during a Level 2 snow emergency are fire, police and EMS personnel; emergency management personnel and approved volunteers, public utility vehicles, rail system equipment vehicles, emergency management media personnel and those tending to livestock.

People traveling to and from work are also exempted from both Level 1 and 2 snow emergencies. According to the ordinance, employers should communicate with all employees and work out a scheduling plan according to the company's operating procedures.

The Putnam County Dispatch Center reported receiving several calls from local factory employees Wednesday morning, who are worried about losing their jobs if they cannot report to work during a declared Level 2 snow emergency.

County Emergency Management Director Kim Hyten said, "We cannot stop the employers from having their employees come in."

911 Dispatch Assistant Director of Operations Shawn Little told the BannerGraphic Wednesday morning that dispatchers were being "inundated" with phone calls from Heartland and Lear employees who are being told to report to work.

Neither Heartland or Lear officials could be reached for comments at the time of press.

With county roads impassable and all local wreckers shut down until the roads can be cleared, Hyten said he worries about stranded motorists receiving the help they need.

He said that if the county highway department cannot open the roads and local employees get stuck, then there's a big problem especially if emergency personnel are unable to reach those stranded.

According to the ordinance, any individuals or vehicles in violation of the ordinance are subject to removal by towing at the expense of the owner and could also be subject to a class C infraction, which carries a fine up to $500.

With all these recent problems, Hyten said that county officials will be reviewing the ordinance for any needed changes to the policy, especially in the sections concerning employees.

Currently, all county schools are closed for the day, as well as the county courthouse, the courthouse annex and the public library.

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