ELKHART — Record-breaking temperatures were expected to follow the first heavy snowfall of the season Tuesday.
Snow totals of a foot or more were recorded in Elkhart County.
Even as the snow snarled traffic and cancelled classes in most school districts in the area, residents were bracing for overnight temperatures in the single digits.
National Weather Service meteorologist Megan Dodson said snow delivered by a low-pressure system across the Midwest was followed in northern Indiana by a cold front that produced bands of lake-effect snow from Lake Michigan early Tuesday.
Lows were expected to plunge to 7 degrees, with a windchill factor of minus 3 degrees, late Tuesday and early Wednesday. That would be the coldest Nov. 12 since the weather service began keeping records for this area in 1953.
The lowest temperature on record for this date was 19 degrees in 1997.
“We (blew) that out of the water,” she said.
Temperatures were expected to improve on Wednesday with a high of 26 degrees and a low of around 22 — though there’s a chance Wednesday, too, could be a record-breaker; the lowest temperature on record for Nov. 13 was 31 degrees in 1996.
“If we only get around to the upper 20s, we will be breaking that record, too,” Dodson said.
As for the snow, a total of 15 inches was recorded at Diamond Lake in Cass County, Michigan, the weather service said.
Elkhart County had tallied up to 13 inches in southwest Goshen and 12 inches in downtown Elkhart.
It was the first significant snowfall of the season. And the accidents were there to prove it.
The Indiana Toll Road and U.S. 20 were notably affected, but city streets were dangerous, too.
Between 7 p.m. Monday and 8 a.m. Tuesday, the Elkhart City Police Department reported 12 accidents and 17 disabled motorists.
Elkhart Police public information officer Lt. Travis Snider said the numbers were not a shock to the department — he called them "pretty average" — but they do provide a valuable message to the public.
“If we have more slide-offs than we do accidents, it’s because of stopping distance and pure speed,” he said. “People need to slow down.”
He suggested that during certain points of heavy snowfall, drivers would be making a poor decision to exceed even 20 mph.
“Even if you’re going 30, it might still be too fast for the road. Even if you weren’t going fast, you’d still slide,” he said.
Snider suggested drivers double the space between them and cars in front of them, stay off hand-held devices and stay alert. Keep gas tanks at least half full to avoid fuel-line freezing and ensure tires are properly inflated, he said.
“With temperatures like this and snow, you should have a little kit in your car with gloves, a hat and a blanket,” he said.
Elkhart County Sheriff's Department Commander of Administrative Services Capt. Mike Culp said this most recent weather event is a reminder to "be prepared, leave early, expect delays and take it slow."
"Our agency wants all motorists to arrive at their destination safely, regardless of the road and weather conditions,” he said.