ELKHART — Streets and roads across Elkhart County are largely clear in the wake of Sunday’s heavy snowfall.
The emergency declaration that had led to a prohibition on travel in some areas was to be lifted Tuesday, Jan. 7.
But that doesn’t mean it’s clear sailing for motorists. Officials warn the cold can create slick conditions, even on relatively clear roads. And work remains to clear roadways in some of the county’s rural subdivisions.
The heavy snowfall, nine inches officially in Elkhart, kept some road crews working around the clock and here’s the latest from the county on recovery efforts.
STILL AT IT IN ELKHART COUNTY’S SUBDIVISIONS
Elkhart County’s highway department crews and contractors have made significant progress removing snow from roads and about half of the subdivisions in the county, but leaders warn that the streets are still extremely icy.
“Just because the road is clear does not mean it’s safe by any means,” said Michael Pennington, deputy director for Elkhart County Emergency Management. “There are still many folks that are taking this as a normal drive, and the more that snow gets packed down, the more ice gets created.”
Pennington added that people leaving their homes for the first time since the snowstorm hit should use caution, drive slowly and only travel when necessary.
The county’s emergency declaration issued Sunday was to expire at 6 p.m. Tuesday, lifting all travel restrictions.
Gusts of wind have created challenges for snow removal crews plowing roads in the county, but county commissioner Mike Yoder said the conditions seem to be improving. Less drifting snow “allowed us to make some headway,” he said.
WALKING IN ELKHART’S STREETS
In Elkhart, Arvis Dawson, assistant to Elkhart Mayor Dick Moore, said the streets are clear, by and large. Now the focus turns to clearing intersections and corners with an overabundance of plowed snow. He also called on those with cars parked in city streets to remove them so crews can plow the snow around them.
Dawson has noticed people walking in streets, forced into roadways due to unshoveled sidewalks. The city won’t yet start enforcing its snow-removal ordinance quite yet, though, due to the extreme cold.
“We’re not going to do anything with that until next week,” he said. “If you can (shovel), OK.”
City ordinance requires snow and ice to be removed from public sidewalks outside homes and businesses 24 hours after a snowfall, unless property owners have a hardship waiver.
SLUSH CONCERNS IN GOSHEN
All of Goshen’s streets are now open, according to Larry Brown, assistant commissioner in the city’s street department, and all have at least two travel lanes.
There could be widening done on some, though, and Brown urged residents to aid in efforts by moving their parked cars off streets to permit improved plowing.
A continuing problem, Brown said, is blowing snow, notably on Dierdorff Road, the south end of Greene Road and out near the Meijer store on Elkhart Road. Potholes, though, shouldn’t be an immediate problem, even with the possible thaw over the weekend. “I don’t think it will thaw quick enough,” he said.
Brown’s bigger concern will be melting snow, which will create slush in streets and slick conditions. Street crews will likely spend the weekend plowing away that slush.
INDOT WARNS OF PACKED SNOW
Roads in Elkhart County covered by the Indiana Department of Transportation, including S.R. 19 and U.S. 20, are largely clear of snow, but they remain slick from compact snow and ice, according to INDOT spokeswoman Mary Foster.
The snow began to melt slightly Monday but then froze again overnight, and chemically treated road salt does not work effectively in freezing temperatures.
“It’s drivable, but you have to treat it like you are driving on a sheet of ice,” Foster said. “Don’t make sudden movements, start to slow down early and don’t slam on your brakes.”
Foster said the temperature is expected to rise Wednesday and Thursday, which will help the salt start working. In the meantime, those who don’t have to drive are encouraged to stay home to let plow drivers do their job.
“Small vehicles, slide off, accidents — it all slows our plow drivers down,” she said.
Sgt. Trent Smith, public information officer with the Indiana State Police, said there were several slide-offs stemming from the weather conditions but very few accidents reported since Sunday. There was little traffic apart from plows “and that really helped out the situation quite a bit.”
In Cass County, Mich., officials lifted a local state of emergency implemented Monday and aimed at motorists.
Reporters Sharon Hernandez, Nick Wesman, Angelle Barbazon and Tim Vandenack contributed to this story.