GREENFIELD — Conditions on icy roads will likely start improving today as temperatures rise, marking an end to the two-day arctic blast that left local officials struggling to keep ahead and many area residents braving the cold to get to work.
While streets remained covered in hard-packed snow Tuesday, salt and chemicals applied earlier will start melting the ice today when temperatures rise to the middle 20s, local officials say.
Hancock County remained under an orange travel advisory level, meaning only essential travel was encouraged. Area schools were closed for a second day in a row – and will be closed again today – but as temperatures warmed to 8 degrees Tuesday, people headed out on the roads.
Larry Ervin, Hancock County Emergency Management director, said the travel advisory could improve to a yellow status as early as today, but he noted the slick conditions Tuesday. The yellow status is the lowest travel advisory, meaning routine travel might be restricted in some areas.
“People just need to use extreme caution still,” Ervin said. “There’s still going to be slick spots, ice-covered spots. Hopefully after (Tuesday), when the subzero temperatures have left, that will help the highway crews with salt.”
Harry Maginity, spokesman for the Indiana Department of Transportation, said Tuesday’s sunshine and traffic was already helping break down ice-melting material on state highways such as U.S. 40 and Interstate 70. Warmer temperatures today, he added, will mean even more melting.
“With temperatures going up (Wednesday) and allowing for the material to work, we’re looking for a great improvement,” he said.
Still, there could be more snow on the horizon. At least it won’t be much, said Dave Tucek, meteorologist for the National Weather Service.
Tucek said there’s a 30 percent chance of snow today, with accumulation at less than one inch. Temperatures will continue to rise through the rest of the week, with a high near 40 degrees Saturday.
Still, Tucek said the quarter to half inch of rain forecast for late this week could cause even more weather problems by Saturday.
“Flooding is certainly a possibility,” he said. “We’re expecting a fair amount of snow to melt. There’s probably an inch to an inch and a half of water in the snow.”
But the upcoming rain won’t match the 4-inch deluge in late December that caused flooding throughout Hancock County. Ervin said local officials are not ruling out the chance of flooding this week, and they will be keeping an eye on weather patterns the rest of the week.
As county officials were wading through the cold weather Tuesday, residents across the state were facing similar conditions. Many counties in Indiana’s northern two-thirds remained under travel warnings, limiting travel to emergency purposes only.
Authorities also said snow and bitter cold were possible factors in the deaths of at least five central Indiana residents, including two elderly women who fell outside Monday while tending to their dogs. Temperatures reached 14 degrees below zero Tuesday in Indianapolis, while Fort Wayne fell to minus 15, tying the record for the date originally set in 1970.
But unlike Monday’s subzero highs, Tuesday’s highs were forecast to range from about zero in far northern Indiana to the middle teens in the state’s southwestern corner.
Emergency crews in Hancock County responded to minor weather-related problems throughout the day Tuesday. Greenfield Fire Chief James Roberts said ambulance runs were up because people were slipping while shoveling their driveways or having a hard time breathing in the bitterly cold air. The department also responded to two chimney fires near Fountaintown and Charlottesville Tuesday.
Roberts is looking forward to warmer temperatures.
“Let’s get the sun to melt this ice… and people can get out and clean (the snow) up without having as much trouble breathing,” he said.
And while there were slide-offs reported on roads throughout the county early this week, there were no major injuries. Gary Pool, engineer for the Hancock County Highway Department, said crews worked on rural roads Tuesday and will begin laying salt today. As the material sits overnight, Pool said the hard-packed snow on county roads might be cleared by Thursday morning.
And while all of Greenfield’s streets had been plowed by Tuesday, street superintendent Jim Hahn said the cold temperatures kept them slick. Hahn is also looking forward to warmer temperatures today that will help melt the ice.
“We came out pretty good for it being that big of a deal,” Hahn said. “I’ve had several people talk to me and say, ‘Wow, I’ve never seen it do this, be this bad. And then you have the temperatures.’ But we’re doing OK.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.