Snow and bitter cold — accompanied by “deadly wind chills” — are on the way and Elkhart County officials are bracing.
Road crews for Elkhart County and the city of Elkhart have plows at the ready to clear roadways of snow that’s expected to start falling Saturday evening, Jan. 4, officials said. The city of Elkhart is ready to open heated pavilions at city parks, meanwhile, in the event a heating system malfunction, say, at a large public housing complex.
“We prepare for the worst, hope for the best,” said Arvis Dawson, assistant to Elkhart Mayor Dick Moore.
The expected snowfall — up to a foot through Sunday night in some areas according to the National Weather Service — isn’t necessarily overwhelming by itself. Potentially gusty winds on Sunday and then bone-chilling temperatures “is what makes it tough,” Dawson said.
Indeed, the NWS issued winter storm and wind chill warnings for northern Indiana, including Elkhart County, advising the public, in strong language, to be ready.
“This is a dangerous and potentially deadly winter storm and travel is discouraged,” said the NWS winter storm warning, which went in effect at 7 p.m. Saturday and continues until 1 a.m. Monday.
The language in the wind chill warning, in effect from 1 a.m. Monday to 8 p.m. Tuesday, was similarly strong.
“Frost bite and hypothermia will occur in a matter of minutes with these expected wind chills,” said the NWS. “Death will also occur if precautions are not taken.”
Here’s the low-down from the NWS on the looming weather in Elkhart County and across northern Indiana:
Ÿ A cold front is expected to move across the area Saturday night, bringing 2 to 4 inches of snow.
Ÿ An additional 4 to 8 inches of snowfall is expected through Sunday, bringing the total to 6 to 12 inches, though the biggest hit will be in east central Indiana. Strong winds are expected to accompany the snow, creating blowing and drifting snow and near-zero visibility at times.
Ÿ Colder air will arrive Sunday night, pushing temperatures down to between 5 below zero and 15 below zero. Combined with cold wind, “deadly wind chills” of 30 degrees below zero to 45 degrees below zero may also occur through Tuesday.
Ÿ Roads may be slick, hazardous and covered in snow, and travel conditions will be particularly problematic Sunday.
DRESS IN LAYERS
All over Elkhart County, officials were prepping.
At Faith Mission, the Elkhart homeless shelter, the regular dorms were full as of midday Saturday, though the facility wasn’t overwhelmed, said Pam Guffey, operating the front desk. There’s more floor space to accommodate additional people.
Winter amnesty guidelines at Faith Mission allow those who aren’t regular clients to sleep on mats in the facility when the temperature is below 32 degrees.
In light of the expected cold, Moore issued a statement calling on residents to look after other family members, neighbors, pets, the young and the elderly. Call 911 about concerns related to cold exposure.
“Go out only if it is necessary and dress in layers of warm clothing and protect exposed skin,” said the mayor’s statement.
Jen Tobey, director of the Elkhart County Emergency Management office, said county officials were mindful of the looming cold and snow. “Everyone’s in the preparation stage,” she said.
The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District sent out a statement saying South Shore train passengers headed to Chicago would be bused between South Bend and Michigan City on Monday and Tuesday. That aims to avoid potential problems with the overhead power system in the section, subject to failure during extreme temperatures.
The Indiana Toll Road Concessions Company has issued a winter weather ban for triple, long double, high-profile oversize permit loads, and low-profile steel haulers, according to the Indiana State Police, Bremen Post. The ban remains in effect through noon Monday, Jan. 6.