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County braces for winter's first blast

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Storm expected to dump up to 5 inches of snow; icy blast will send mercury plunging

By Vince Luecke

PERRY COUNTY - A developing winter storm moving into the Ohio River Valley was expected to bring the first significant snowfall of the season Wednesday night and Thursday, with accumulations of up to 5 inches before tapering off Thursday night.

In the wake of the storm is an arctic air mass that will send nighttime lows into the low single digits through the weekend.

As The News went to press Wednesday afternoon, the National Weather Service in Paducah, Ky., had issued a winter storm warning for Wednesday night and Thursday, sending residents to grocery stores to stock up on essentials. The pending snowfall had local road crews bracing for long hours.

"We're ready for whatever Mother Nature has in store," Tell City Street Commissioner Jeff Everly said Monday evening during the year's first meeting of the city's board of public works and safety. The city received new shipments that day of sand and has plenty of salt in stock,  Everly said.

A mix of sand and salt will be applied to intersections as the snow begins falling, with emphasis on high-priority areas such as streets serving Perry County Memorial Hospital and the county's nearby emergency medical services building.

The city has four large trucks equipped with blades and spreaders, as well as two one-ton trucks used to plow narrow streets in the Fennhaven area and other areas bigger trucks have trouble accessing.

Cannelton Street Commissioner Charlie Davis also reported a good supply of sand and salt its two trucks will use to clear streets.

At the Indiana Department of Transportation Subdistrict near Gatchel, crews were pretreating highways with a brine solution. Roger Parr, who directs activities at the subdistrict, said the salt and water mixture is applied as a liquid and once the water evaporates, the salty residue on the asphalt surface helps to slow the accumulation of snow and ice.

A second benefit comes from the brine's ability to prevent snow and ice from forming a tight bond to the road's surface, making highways easier to clear.

"That saves man-hours and material," he said.

Parr said brine was being applied to areas prone to freeze first, such as bridges.

Brine is made at INDOT facilities in Dale and south of Birdseye on Indiana 145 and transported by trucks across the district.

With forecasters predicting snow to begin falling around midnight, Parr planned to have full crews on duty by late Wednesday night.

At the Perry County Highway Department, brine had already been applied to the county's network of paved roads, operations manager Steve Howell said.

Once snow begins to fall, crews intended to clear and apply salt and sand to main roads, then secondary routes.

The county has eight trucks equipped with plows to battle the snow, as well as several smaller trucks.

Where to Find Information

State police are asking the public to avoid contacting local, county or state police dispatch centers with questions regarding road and weather conditions.

"Dispatch centers are extremely busy relaying information when inclement weather moves in. Having to answer road- and weather-related questions can delay officers and EMS from receiving needed emergency information," Indiana State Police Sgt. Chad Dick said.

The best source of weather updates is local media, as well as an Indiana Department of Transportation 24-hour road and weather information number that can be accessed at (800) 261-7623. Information is also available at www.TrafficWise. in.gov. This site contains statewide road and weather conditions for all of Indiana.