TOP STORY OF THE DAY, brought to you free by WICU: Local officials planning for response to winter storm

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Although the winter storm front causing concern for the National Weather Service and local residents has not arrived yet, Clay County officials are preparing for potentially heavy snow expected to come overnight.

Clay County Emergency Management Director Rob Gambill works with local officials regarding the impending weather that could create snowfall ranging from a couple of inches to double digits.

"There are several versions of the forecast models, but we are taking it seriously just in case," said Gambill

The Forecast

According to the National Weather Service:

Most of Sunday will be cloudy, windy, and cold. Low temperatures have been in the single-digits, close to zero degrees. With wind gusts up to 20 mph, wind chill temperatures have been sub-zero.

The heaviest snow showers are expected to begin after 9 p.m., lasting until 4 a.m. Monday. The Wabash Valley is expected to receive 2-8 inches of snow.

After a slight break, heavy snow could continue later Monday afternoon. Overnight the snow should subside, but flurries are possible until Tuesday morning.

Travel Problems

Gambill said the arctic temperatures over the next few days and the extreme wind gusts could create problems like severe wind chills (leading to frostbite) and drifting that will create motorists' problems.

"If you don't have to travel, don't. But, if you do, make sure you notify someone that you are traveling someplace, the route you expect to take, and the time you think you will arrive. That way, if you experience some type of problem, people will know where you are," said Gambill, who added to make sure vehicles have a full tank of gas, and you pack a small emergency kit that includes water, a food source, blankets, a working and fully charged cellphone (and the charger). "If you break down or experience a slide off, you need to be prepared to report what happened and be able to wait for help to arrive."

If the weather creates hazardous travel conditions, Gambill said first responders would also have to deal with the same problems.

Gambill said the Clay County Commissioners, law enforcement, and other agencies keep a close watch on the weather radar.

"If the weather creates travel hazards, the commissioners will make that announcement early," he said. "People need to stay informed during the next few days. If you don't have to leave home, don't. Stay home and be safe."

School's Out Monday, but what about Tuesday?

Clay Community School Superintendent Jeff Fritz confirmed the administration would be working Monday.

"We are keeping an eye on this," said Fritz, who, along with Director of Extended Services Jesse Trunnell, will be out checking the roadways and the school buildings around 4 a.m. to determine what to do next.

"I recommend parents and students be prepared for a potential eLearning Day on Tuesday," said Fritz. "Our main priority is always to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff members."

Fritz said parents could use several media outlets to keep up with school closings and information about winter-weather preparations for eLearning on the corporation's web page www.clay.k12.in.us.

Those interested in school closing information can check out:

The Brazil Times website and Facebook page

WTHI TV 10 or its website at www.wthitv.com,

WTWO TV 2 or its website at www.mywabashvalley.com,

WTHI HI-99 Radio (99.9 on the FM dial) allows for text or e-mail sign-up for notifications on school closing information.

COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic

The Clay County Health Department's COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Clay County 4-H Fairgrounds is planning on remaining open during the regular days of Wednesday through Saturday. However, if the snowstorm forces roads to be closed, health officials have taken action to check on what would happen to those appointments scheduled for this week.

Clay County Health Nurse Kim Hyatt and Emergency Planning Coordinator Tom Champion checked with the Indiana State Department of Health Saturday.

State health officials confirmed if a vaccine clinic is closed due to a severe weather event, people scheduled for appointments will receive a text on their cellphone advising them of the closure and rescheduling arrangements. The local health department will contact those individuals who have not provided a cellphone number to the ISDH.

"Otherwise, we are planning on being open," said Champion. "But if the roads are closed, we urge people, including our volunteers - to stay home and be safe."

INDOT Response

The Indiana Department of Transportation is deploying more than 1,100 plow trucks over the next 48 hours to plow and treat interstates, U.S. routes, and state roads. Nearly all of Indiana is expected to receive significant snow accumulation in a major winter storm.

INDOT crews will begin patrolling highways by 8 p.m. Sunday and will remain active through the winter storm. Keep in mind, plow trucks generally travel about 25 to 30 miles per hour, and it takes between two to three hours to complete a snow route.

INDOT has the following resources to respond to this winter weather event:

More than 1,100 plow trucks

200,000 tons of salt

100,000 gallons of brine

More than 1,800 employees on call covering 28,000 lane miles

Motorists are urged to stay off the roads during the winter storm if possible to give plow drivers plenty of room to safely clear snow and ice.

If you must travel:

Slow down and stay behind the snowplows. The road behind the plow will be the safest place to drive. Allow at least ten car lengths between your vehicle and snowplows or hopper spreaders.

Do not pass. The plows are wide, and sometimes a group of trucks will work in tandem to clear snow quickly, especially on major highways.

Be particularly aware of black ice conditions on surfaces such as bridge decks and entrance and exit ramps.

Due to frigid temperatures and sub-zero wind chills, the salt will take longer to melt snow and ice. Blowing and drifting may also push snow back on to recently plowed routes.

Four-wheel drive, anti-lock brakes and traction control are beneficial in winter weather, BUT they cannot take the place of good driving habits and the need to reduce speed on snowy or icy roads.

Keep an emergency kit in your vehicle if you're stranded and keep a cell phone charged in case you need to call for help.

Stay Informed:

County emergency management agencies issue travel advisories, watches, and warnings. To check the travel status in a given county, visit https://www.in.gov/dhs/traveladvisory/.

The latest winter driving conditions, traffic cameras, travel speeds, and more are available at https://indot.carsprogram.org.

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