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A season past the brink

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GREENFIELD — There wasn’t much that Inskeep Ford general sales manager Patrick Dunn and company could do Monday as yet another bout of snow and ice bore down on Hancock County.

After inevitably eclipsing the record for snowiest winter on record during the weekend, Monday afternoon’s weather continued this season’s repetitive dance on local car lots and everywhere else snowstorms put a dent in people’s business.

“Every time it snows, we have to brush off every car, move each row of cars to plow, salt and then move the cars back,” Dunn said.

Inskeep has set a record of its own this year, as central Indiana builds on the new standard of 51-plus inches of snowfall. (And that was before Monday’s storm brought more.)

 “Our (snow) plow bill is a new record,” Dunn said. And the company’s salt bill has tripled over last year as well.

“We have a big lot that freezes over, and we have to do whatever we can to keep people from slipping,” he said.

Not that there’s been a lot of foot traffic early this year on Inskeep’s lot.

“The first three weeks of January were terrible,” he said. “No one came in.”

Dunn said coming out of the blocks this January was as bad as the company has had it in years.

“It was horrible,” he said.

Then, people became fed up with the bone-chilling sub-zero temperatures, and like bears coming out of hibernation, they began to return to forage for cars.

“People got used to the weather,” Dunn said. “The last week in January was one of the best we’ve had in recent years.”

Dean Heistand, a salesman for Gray Auto Brokers in Greenfield, saw the same thing.

“People just got cabin fever, I guess,” Heistand said.

Monday brought yet another decision by school officials to shorten the school day: This time, they sent students home early, hoping to finish bus routes before the worst of the snow and ice hit.

Monday’s early release brought the number of days county schools have either closed or been delayed or shortened to 16.

The county’s students weren’t the only ones trying to get a jump on the bad weather Monday.

Local street crews were sent out Monday afternoon to treat the roads with salt before the freezing rain arrived – a plan they hoped would prevent as many slide-offs as possible.

The Indiana Department of Transportation and Hancock County Highway Department sent out drivers at noon, while the Greenfield Street Department had trucks on city streets by 2 p.m.

“It’s the worst type of condition you can get,” said Jim Hahn, city street commissioner. “It makes a nightmare as far as black ice; people can’t see it. They think they’re driving on wet pavement instead of ice… and it’s coming off your windshield like its water, but it’s actually ice.”

And while the snowiest winter on record has made for tight budgets for local departments’ material and overtime funds, Hahn said once he heard the forecast he had no choice but to send out crews on the Presidents Day holiday.

So while yet another cold, soggy blanket wintry mix shrouded Hancock County Monday with residents doing what they could to shrug it off, Dunn and others in the car business, broke out the brushes, plows and salt and looked ahead to the brighter days of  March.

“You call it spring,” Dunn said. “We call it the selling season.”


Maribeth Vaughn and Noelle M. Steele of the Daily Reporter staff contributed to this report.

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