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Ice, snow deliver one-two punch

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Power outages in county widespread as glazed-over limbs topple utility lines

By Vince Luecke

PERRY COUNTY — A two-day midwinter storm plastered Perry County with ice and snow Tuesday and Wednesday, closing roads and schools and cutting power to thousands of homes.

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County commissioners declared a state of emergency at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday and urged drivers to stay off roadways unless absolutely necessary. Unless lifted or extended, the order remains in effect until noon Friday.

The state of emergency did not close roads but state police said travel will remain hazardous. Temperatures aren't forecast to rise above the freezing point until the weekend.

Power Outages Widespread

Freezing rain that began Tuesday morning glazed roads, trees and power lines throughout the day and continued into the night. Precipitation turned to snow early Wednesday and tapered off over the morning.

As of noon Wednesday, nearly 6,600 of Southern Indiana Power's customers were without power, making the storm comparable to the winter storm of 1996 that caused heavy damage to the utility's power-distribution system. The cooperative serves about 9,400 homes and businesses.

Southern Indiana Power is bringing in outside crews to help with repairs but said it may be sometime this weekend before all power is restored. Poor road conditions and ice buildup on lines is slowing the effort.

A news release issued Wednesday by Southern Indiana Power on its efforts to restore service to customers is on this page.

Portions of Tell City and Cannelton were still without electricity Wednesday and crews in both communities were working to restore power. In Tell City, North 14th Street and Burglen Hills areas were hardest hit, as were areas along Indiana 37.

Cannelton Mayor Smokey Graves said Wednesday morning spotty power outages were being reported and utility- and street-department workers had been out all night working to keep up with storm-related problems. No major accidents had occurred, he said.

"Fortunately people are either staying home or being very careful," he said.

Indiana 66 between Rocky Point and Sulphur was closed Wednesday morning due to downed trees and power lines. Other trees slowed or blocked traffic in surrounding counties, including Indiana 545 from Troy to St. Meinrad  and portions of Indiana 145 north of Indiana 62.

Indiana Department of Transportation crews were shouldering two Herculean chores Wednesday, plowing state roads and Interstate 64 and using chain saws to remove trees.

Cher Goodwin, public-information officer for INDOT's Vincennes District, said tree removal began at first light. More than 650 INDOT plow trucks were working to clear roads in central and southern Indiana.

County road crews were working to remove ice and snow from paved and gravel roads.

Tell City Street Department workers began plowing streets and spreading a mixture of sand and salt early Tuesday and were back at work that night and again Wednesday. Backhoes were being used to clear intersections across the city and helped remove limbs in the Fennhaven area.

At the Tell City Police Department, where a generator provided emergency power after electricity was lost, three dispatchers fielded calls Tuesday night, most of them related to power outages and downed trees. City police officers helped remove limbs falling throughout the city. Officers reported hearing the sound of crashing limbs throughout the night.

Cannelton Utilities crews were still working Wednesday morning to restore power to residents, Cannelton Police Department Sgt. Eric Dickenson said. He said city streets remained snow-covered and slick. "I think the snow we're getting is actually making things slicker," he said.

Dickenson hadn't been to the area yet but said he heard a tree had fallen onto a mobile home on First Street.

All three county school systems were closed Tuesday and Wednesday, as was the county courthouse. City Hall in Tell City was also closed Wednesday.

Steve Hauser, director of the Perry County Emergency Management Agency, said generators were providing power to repeaters that relay radio traffic to police, fire and rescue agencies.

Interstate 64 remained open but was described as snow-covered and slick. Police were called to aid several motorists whose vehicles slid off roadways.

Shelter Open

The American Red Cross has opened a shelter at the Schergens Center in Tell City for anyone in need of refuge from the winter storm.

Those planning on staying should bring toiletries, medication, pillows, blankets and games and books. Air mattresses and cots are also welcome.

Updated Road Information

Updated information on road conditions can be obtained by visiting www.in.gov/isp or by calling the Indiana State Police Road and Weather Line at (800) 261-7623. Call (812) 482-7192 for road conditions within the Jasper District.