HANCOCK COUNTY — Officials from the U.S. National Weather Service in Indianapolis say people need to brace themselves and be prepared for the blast of fidget air and possible snow coming to the area this Christmas weekend.
Temperatures are expected to take a deep nose dive late Thursday night and drop into the minus-degree range with dangerous windchill expected through early next week. The high wind potential could lead to power outages as well as life-threatening situations for people exposed, officials said.
“It is gonna be windy,” officials from the National Weather Service posted online, stating wind gusts of 40 to 52 mph will be possible on Friday, Dec. 23 into Saturday, Dec. 24. This will result in very cold wind chill values, possible minor wind damage, and possible blowing snow.
Temperatures will quickly crash Thursday night ahead of a dynamic storm system on Friday, Dec. 23 officials with the weather service said.
“With many moving parts, it is still too early to predict snowfall,” NWS officials said. “What we are certain of, however, is dangerously cold wind chills through the weekend.”
The Hancock County Emergency Management team posted online a simple but wise piece of advice, “Be Prepared!” That means making sure your family has plenty of food, water, blankets and to dress accordingly if going outside.
Public Information Officer for the EMA team, Greg Duda noted they always keep updated with information from the National Weather Service and they encourage others to do so as well.
“There will be plenty of news coverage about this because of how close it is to Christmas and the busy travel season,” Duda said in an email to the Daily Reporter. “We want everyone to check on their neighbors, the elderly, and anyone who might be at risk. With dangerous cold and wind, power disruptions are certainly possible, so help others when you can.”
The Hancock County Community Organization Active in Disaster said they will have the Greenfield Christian Church, 23 N. East St., Greenfield, open as a shelter Thursday night, and Friday, Dec. 23. While The Landing, 18 W. South St., Greenfield, will be used Christmas Eve, Saturday, Dec. 24 and on Christmas Day, Sunday, Dec. 25.
The COAD co-director, Jim Peters noted they’ll post where the shelter will be open the next few days at the Kenneth Butler Memorial Soup Kitchen and at the Greenfield Library for people looking for the place to stay.
“This storm is going to be awful from what we can tell,” Peters said. “The windchill will be deadly.”
With this being Christmas weekend, officials know many people plan to travel. Drivers are being warned to pay attention to road conditions and don’t leave home without a well-stocked car due to the frigid temperatures.
County engineer Gary Pool said there is no way to sugar coat it — the storm is going to be dangerous.
“The best we can hope for is not much snow,” Pool said. “We’ll have salt on the roads, but it won’t be that helpful if it’s zero degrees. It’s going to be terrible driving conditions all weekend.”
Pool said that, with massive wind gusts, it will make the work the county crews do on the road basically ineffective. The best-case scenario would be the system brings rain and pushes out before the temperatures drop, Pool said. But, he warned, even then, that will create ice when the temperature drops, which is extremely dangerous.
“I’d say folks need to travel on Thursday or wait until Saturday,” Pool said. “But, even then we’re going to have high winds.”
Having this storm at Christmas time, plus being the first major storm of the year, is not an ideal situation.
“It’s really a double whammy,” Pool said. “Mother Nature is going to have her way with us and we’ll win when Spring comes, but for now, she’s going to get her way.”
Officials warn to be prepared for winter weather at home, at work and in your car which includes creating an emergency supply kit for your car. That should include jumper cables, sand, a flashlight, warm clothes, blankets, bottled water and non-perishable snacks and be sure to have a full tank of gas, if venturing out.
For people with pets, keep them inside or make sure they have proper shelter and are not exposed to the elements, which will be life-threatening to pets.
For questions or assistance with any resources, county residents are encouraged to call the Hancock County 911 Center non-emergency number 317-477-4400. Call or text 911 for emergencies and they’ll be sure to get help, Duda said.
“There are a lot of uncertainty with exactly what Hancock County will get, so the EMA stays in touch with local government officials, as well as state and county highway departments,” he said.
If officials need to enact a travel advisory, it will be posted on the EMA Facebook page, as well as a text message sent out through Smart911 for those who have elected to get those messages. People can sign up at Smart911.com for a complete list of alerts to your phone for free.