Traffic was very light in Indianapolis Tuesday morning as the first round of a winter storm expected to lash parts of Indiana with up to 2 feet of snow or more than an inch of ice left an early impression, but motorists in other parts of the state weren't as fortunate.
An Indiana State Police trooper was among five people who were injured in a crash on Interstate 74 at the State Road 244 exit in Shelby County that was attributed to icy conditions.
Police said Trooper Jesse Schmidt was helping two crash victims when another vehicle slid and struck them. The trooper was treated and released, but the people involved were taken to hospitals, one with serious injuries.
In Indianapolis, Mayor Greg Ballard issued a travel advisory, asking motorists to only travel to and from work and in emergency situations. All nonessential city workers were set sent home at noon.
The Indiana Department of Homeland Security is coordinating storm response for the state, with help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers.
"We took the steps last evening and this morning to pre-position about 850 of our Indiana National Guard soldiers in a variety of places around the state," said Joe Wainscott, director of IDHS. "Their primary mission will be what we call highway assistance teams, and their job is to help coordinate with the Indiana State Police and the Indiana Department of Transportation to help with problems out on our highways and certain emergency transportation needs."
The American Red Cross has set up several warming centers along Indiana highways so motorists can stop, rest and get warm, if needed. Twenty-six shelters are on standby ready for action, if needed.
Neighborhood streets in Indianapolis were slick, hazardous and nearly impossible to navigate Tuesday, but many people were told they didn't have to go into work or school anyway.
More than 600 closings and cancellations were reported to 6News and TheIndyChannel.com early in the morning and hundreds more trickled in during the day.
Interstates were generally clear in the Indianapolis area, thanks to overnight salting, but untreated surfaces were in bad shape.
A travel warning was issued in Shelby County, which received up to a half-inch of ice overnight. Motorists were urged not to travel in that county unless it is essential.
"We've got between a quarter and a half-inch of ice on everything," said Shelby County Sheriff Mike Bowlby. "The interstates are not too bad ... but the county roads are ice-covered, slick and hazardous."
More than 40 crashes or slide-offs were reported in Johnson County alone during the early-morning hours on Tuesday, the Johnson County Sheriff's Department said.
Indiana State Police Lt. Jay Janke, based at the Lafayette post, said road conditions are already poor in the region, but will likely worsen later.
"All of the secondary roads are snow-covered and icy, and the interstates are snow-covered, with scattered ice due to blowing snow across them," Janke said. "We expect with conditions changing this afternoon, things are going to deteriorate."
Road conditions in the area served by ISP's Pendleton post were also dicey, Sgt. Rod Russell said, with trouble areas on the interstates and other roads in that area.
The Indianapolis Department of Public Works and Indiana Department of Transportation have dozens of crews working the roads in central Indiana, but they will have their work cut out for them later in the day.
The second round of the winter storm, expected to move into the area on Tuesday afternoon, is expected to be much stronger than the first round.
INDOT said it planned to move crews from the far southern part of the state to central and northern Indiana to battle an anticipated onslaught of freezing rain and heavy snow.
A few counties had posted travel advisories, watches or warnings, and more are expected later in the day.
Indianapolis International Airport said many airlines had canceled flights to and from the city ahead of the second blast from the winter storm and that one runway is operating without issues.
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