GREENFIELD — When Rick Horton heard the word “blizzard,” he immediately got excited.
As crews continued to clear the snow that was dumped on Greenfield, Horton spent hours Wednesday night and Thursday sculpting a giant bluegill fish on his front lawn.
“Every time there’s at least 5 or more inches and it’s going to be cold for a while to stay around, I’ll go and make something,” said Horton, 503 S. State St.
Meanwhile, life began to get back to normal Thursday in Hancock County. Road workers tackled the hard, packed snow that became slippery in spots, while local government and businesses reopened and children enjoyed a winter wonderland.
Several folks stopped by Horton’s home to take pictures of his new masterpiece. Since the 1990s, Horton has been sculpting something from the snow almost every year. Subjects have ranged from animals to guitars to Bart Simpson.
The bluegill was inspired by the hand-crafted fishing lures Horton has been whittling lately. As winds died down Wednesday night, Horton ventured out to begin carving the 7-foot long fish. He spent several hours Thursday sculpting the fine details – fins and scales – and applying spray paint in blues, greens and golds. While he enjoys sculpting, Horton said the reaction from the public also makes it worthwhile.
“So many people come up and say, ‘Oh we love it. We come by every year to see what you’ve made,’” Horton said.
City, county and state road crews continued to clear the roads Thursday. Wednesday’s blizzard was accompanied by winds reaching 39 mph locally. Chad Swain, meteorologist for the National Weather Service, said there were reports from Greenfield of 7 inches and 9.5 inches of snow. Reports varied just as much across the entire Indianapolis area; drifting caused some spots to pile high with snow, while grass peeked out of other spots.
“The further south you went, the heaviest amounts you encountered,” Swain said. “(On) the north side of Indianapolis, the suburbs was around 5 to 7 inches on average; you get to the southern suburbs you get anywhere from 9 to 11 inches.”
There is a chance for less than an inch of snow late today and early Saturday, and more snow is on the radar for New Year’s Eve. Swain said it’s too early to tell how much snow could fall Monday, but it will probably be less than 2 inches.
Jim Hahn, superintendent of the Greenfield Street Department, was just getting his bearings Thursday morning after a whirlwind Wednesday. He began returning calls from the 20 or so local residents who had complained about snow piled up on their shoveled driveways. That, Hahn said, can’t be helped when the roads need to be cleared. He also received several calls from people pleased with their job.
Still, Thursday morning there was hard-packed snow and ice on the roads and crews went back on every street to spread salt and continue to plow.
Clearing roads for others is something Hahn has been doing for years, even since he was a boy. He has a photograph of himself when he was in the seventh grade during the blizzard of 1978. The picture shows Hahn standing at the edge of his family’s driveway, shovel in hand, with mounds of snow surrounding him.
“I remember I was proud. I dug us out; I dug our family out,” Hahn said.
Wednesday’s storm was the first major event Hahn has overseen since he returned to the top street position following a two-year hiatus. He said he was glad to be back, even though he stayed up two days straight worrying about the storm.
“Those guys did such a good job, I don’t know why I worry sometimes,” Hahn said.
The Hancock County Emergency Operations Center reported 31 slide-offs throughout the county as a result of the first blast of winter weather.
There have been a number of minor accidents caused by motorists driving more quickly than road conditions allow, but dispatchers had received only one report of an accident with injury as of Thursday morning, EOC director Connie Hoy said.
Crews on the county’s rural roads were out all day Thursday, having more success since the drifting ended, said Joe Copeland, engineer for the Hancock County Highway Department.
With nine large trucks, two small trucks and a road grader, Copeland said their success depended largely on Mother Nature.
“It’s becoming slush; they’re knocking the slush off and widening the roads out,” Copeland said. “It depends on Mother Nature; it depends on whether it warms up or the sun comes out. We don’t have enough material (for every county road). Roads will be snow-covered to an extent till it warms up or the sun comes out.”
Nathan Riggs, spokesperson for the Indiana Department of Transportation, said the winds made it difficult to keep up with snow removal Wednesday, especially on multi-lane highways like U.S. 40. But crews worked throughout Wednesday night after the winds slowed down, and put salt on state roads all day Thursday.
“(Thursday) with the sun out and pavement temperatures expected to come above freezing, those remaining problematic areas – especially where we weren’t able to get plowed down to the pavement, hard pack and slush – will get cleared,” Riggs said.
Staff writer Noelle M. Steele contributed to this report.