Ice, snow merge for season’s first flurry

Dave Weatherwax/The Herald
With Chase Nord, 9, left, using the shovel, his sister Allyson, 7, resorted to scooping up the snow with her arms as the two starting building a pile of snow in the front yard of their Jasper home after the sleet turned to snow this morning. The siblings were home from Precious Blood School, which was closed along with other schools in the county.

of The Herald Staff

This winter’s first noteworthy snow salvo came early and hit hard enough to cause disruptions and hazardous driving conditions.

It has been more than a decade since such a significant winter storm slid into Dubois County prior to Christmas; the county hasn’t experienced an earlier measurable snowfall since 2002 when 5 inches blanketed Huntingburg and 2.5 inches powdered Jasper on Dec. 4 and 5.

This time around, arctic air pushing into the area began turning raindrops into frozen bumps on vehicle sheet metal shortly after 8 p.m. Thursday. The wintry precipitation peppered down as sleet until snowflakes were added to the mix just before 2:30 a.m. today.

It meant an all-nighter for many in the snow patrol business.

Dave Weatherwax/The Herald
Richard Olsen worked on clearing the first layer of ice and snow from the sidewalks in front of his home on Kundek Street in Jasper this morning.

To avoid seeing the city’s brine mix simply washed away, Jasper Street Commissioner Raymie Eckerle said he waited until it seemed like the biggest bulk of the pure rain was through the area before having municipal workers begin laying down material near the centerlines of roadways at about 6 p.m. Thursday. They kept it up until 10 p.m., pulled back for a time and then were out before 4 a.m. today with plows down and material spreaders activated.

Today’s classes and weekend sporting events at nearly every area school were canceled early. Some businesses delayed the start of the workday and the Dubois County Commissioners decided to close all county offices.

The latter call was made after Commissioners President Larry Vollmer ventured out at 4 a.m., when large snowflakes were falling in the western portion of the county, and he heard forecasters estimating what was in store later in the day.

Vollmer conferred with the other commissioners and they decided it would be better for everyone’s safety to close offices and allow snowplows to do their work.

“It’s not going to melt,” Vollmer said. “It’s going to stay cold the next week or so.”

The advance warning about a potentially dangerous weather system bearing down on the county seemed to pay dividends. The Dubois County Sheriff’s Department worked only one overnight accident and that simply involved a car with an iced windshield that ran through a T-intersection and a fence near Jasper.

The National Weather Service office in Louisville is calling for up to 6 to 10 inches of snow to fall on top of as much as an inch of sleet across Dubois County today. Additional light snow accumulations will be possible Saturday night and Sunday. Bitter cold is also forecast: 10 degrees tonight, a high of 21 degrees Saturday and a low Saturday night of 15 degrees.

NWS meteorologist Mike Callahan held to the 6- to 10-inch estimate this morning.

“Once you get above 10 inches it’s academic anyway,” Callahan said. “It’s going to be a mess, regardless.”

Should the forecast hit its mark, it will be the most significant December snowfall since the 2004 Christmastime monster than slammed Jasper with 15 inches on Dec. 22 and 23 and whacked Huntingburg with 22.5 inches on the same days.

The area already is trending ahead of last winter’s pace; Jasper finished the 2012-13 winter season having plowed through a total of just 9 inches of snow and Huntingburg ended the cycle with about 6 inches. The biggest single snowfall last season was a 4-inch layer in both cities Dec. 26.

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