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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Winter storm leaves few accidents in wake

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Traffic moves slowly northbound on U.S. 231 from the viaduct at the north end of Greencastle.
Timing may just have been everything in the case of the "Blizzard of 2012."

A shift in the trajectory of the storm left Putnam County with less snow than projected and much less than some other areas of the state. However, a relative dearth of slideoffs and accidents on Putnam County roads might also be attributed to the storm hitting on Dec. 26.

"I think we were blessed with (it being) the day after Christmas," Putnam County Emergency Management Agency director Tom Helmer said, "people are off work and school isn't in session."

Putnam County was under a level 2 travel advisory beginning early Wednesday morning, and Helmer credited residents with being "really good" and limiting themselves to essential travel.

"People have been heeding the warnings," Helmer said.

A level 2 advisory (a "watch" in state terminology) means conditions are threatening to the public. Only essential travel (to and from work and emergencies) is recommended.

The weather advisory level, which was to remain in place until reassessed on Thursday, did not reach the top level likely expected when forecasts called for up to 12 inches of snow locally.

Those who braved the snow moved slowly on Indianapolis Road on the east side of Greencastle on Wednesday.
Unofficial reports placed the amount of Putnam County snow between four and six inches, a far cry from the foot or more of snow reported in other parts of the state.

However, the storm did not reach the proportions predicted, with the National Weather Service ending its blizzard warning shortly before 4 p.m., three hours earlier than the original estimate.

Helmer, who is also the sheriff's department chief deputy, said slide-offs and accidents were limited on Wednesday.

He added that the worst problems occurred in the Plessinger's Hill area on U.S. 231 South, where the road was closed briefly on Wednesday morning, as several vehicles struggled to climb the hill in the slick conditions.

Likewise, Putnam County 911 Dispatch reported a light day, considering the conditions. The worst problem reported by dispatch was also on Plessinger's Hill, where a semi slid off the road.

Interstate 70 was the worst of the roads in the county, with Indiana State Troopers in the Putnamville District working 44 slideoffs and 15 crashes, most of them on I-70. Seven of these crashes occurred in Putnam County.

ISP reported the busiest section of I-70 as from the 23-miler marker in Clay County to the 48-mile marker in Putnam County.

At 6 p.m. Wednesday I-70 was open with all lanes wet with scattered slush spots. Most crashes were said to have been caused by driving too fast for conditions and inexperienced drivers.

Road crews for both Putnam County and City of Greencastle concentrated their efforts on main roads throughout the day, saving the clearing of secondary routes until after the snowfall stopped.

The Putnam County Highway Department reported east-west roads as the hardest hit, as a wind shifted to the north in the afternoon, causing drifting along these routes.

County highway crews concentrated their efforts on "main collector" roads such as Manhattan Road, West Walnut Street and the Bainbridge-Roachdale Road.

A small crew of county highway personnel worked overnight Wednesday to assist emergency crews should they need to travel down impassable roads.

Clearance of the rest of the roads was expected to begin in earnest on Thursday morning, with the storm out of the area.

Greencastle Department of Public Works superintendent Brad Phillips reported to Mayor Sue Murray that his department began its efforts in the early morning Wednesday, pre-treating the roads between midnight and 5 a.m.

Once snow began, the city's crews kept most of their efforts to main roads.

"I think we pretty well kept traffic moving on the main roads but we still have a lot of work ahead of us," Phillips told Murray.

The public works chief left instructions for the second shift crew to continue concentrating on the main roads Wednesday afternoon and evening, and then secondary roads once the snow ended.

Murray told the Banner Graphic the city's biggest problem following the storm might be with trash pick-up. Republic Services, the city's waste management vendor, is now two days behind between a day off for Christmas and an additional day with no pick-ups on Wednesday.

Otherwise, the recovery effort began when the snow stopped.

"The city looks like it's digging out," Murray said.

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