GREENFIELD — Jordan Caldwell’s first reaction when he hears a forecast of snow mixed with sub-zero temperatures? Get ready.
An operations manager with CGS Services, Caldwell is in charge of not only making sure the company’s fleet of waste removal vehicles is prepared for the weather but ensuring employees are bundled up to bear the bitter cold.
With a severe winter storm expected to roll in late tonight, bringing with it up to 10 inches of snow followed by bone-chilling temperatures into Monday morning, public safety officials are asking county residents to stay inside.
But for those who make their living working outdoors, that’s just not an option.
Caldwell will be logging hours throughout the weekend to prepare CGS Services’ vehicles, and then he’ll brace for the chill as he joins his fellow workers for trash pickup starting Monday morning, when the temperature could be 15 below zero.
But Caldwell insists it’s not as bad as it sounds.
For those accustomed to working outdoors, the coming week will be business as usual, he said.
“Overall, most of these guys in the trash trucks, they’re moving so much and have sweat going that it’s not even a factor for them,” Caldwell said. “When you’re out there in that kind of weather, you’re out there for a reason: to get something done. And that’s all you’re thinking about doing.”
But many county officials say the weekend weather will make their jobs significantly harder.
National Weather Service officials have estimated 6 to 10 inches of snow will fall between tonight and Sunday night, with temperatures steadily falling over the weekend.
And more snow could be coming by the middle of next week.
“I’d say get your shovels ready,” meteorologist Jason Puma said.
Experts say their real concern is the temperature.
Wind chills are expected to fall to 40 below zero by Monday, when the high is expected to be -6.
If temperatures reach the expected low of -15 degrees Monday or Tuesday, it will be the coldest weather the area has seen this time of year since 1994, according to the National Weather Service.
“We need people to take it very seriously,” said Larry Ervin, director of Hancock County Emergency Management. “Stay in.”
Friday, Ervin coordinated with local emergency responders to plan ahead as much as possible for blizzard-like conditions. Several sites in the county are on call to be used as shelters in the event of massive power outages, Ervin said.
Meanwhile, county residents should make contingency plans if they lose power.
Those without transportation or anywhere else to stay may call 911 in the event of an outage, and their information will be forwarded to the American Red Cross, Ervin said.
“They have to understand though that it may take awhile to get to them,” Ervin said. “They can’t expect someone to be at their door in 20 minutes.”
Greenfield Police Chief John Jester said his officers will patrol the city as long as they can, but if there is significant snowfall, they might be forced to return to the police station and have a snow plow escort them to calls.
“We’re kind of preparing for the worst, hoping for the best,” Jester said. “We will do all the patrolling we can until it gets to the point where our cars can’t make it down the road.”
Local street departments spent Friday continuing to clear streets and roads from Thursday’s storm and bracing for even more snow ahead.
But even their best efforts might not be enough to completely clear the roads, because salt won’t melt ice in sub-zero temperatures.
“Sometimes, mankind gets defeated by the forces of nature for a day or two,” said Harry Maginity, spokesman for the Indiana Department of Transportation. “We don’t conquer every situation. We do the best we can with it.”
Maginity said INDOT will be laying a salt/magnesium chloride mixture on state highways over the weekend to brace for Sunday’s storm, but that mixture will only melt ice and snow until the temperature reaches zero.
“People are just going to have to know that nature is a powerful force,” Maginity said. “If this snow coming in is bigger than the one we’ve already had (Thursday), we’ll do the best we can with it and get it cleaned off … The public is just going to have to drive with good, common sense and exercise patience.”
Street departments in Greenfield and Hancock County will be using sand for traction on the roads and plowing as much as possible to keep up. Jim Hahn, Greenfield street commissioner, said the department also relies on calls from citizens to keep up on trouble spots, but he hopes residents are patient.
“You get some people that just don’t understand, and then some people that are very understanding,” Hahn said.