Sleet, snow merge for season’s first flurry

Photos by Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Patrick Gehlhausen of Jasper spread salt outside of the St. Joseph Parish Center on Friday. "It could always be worse, that's what I keep telling myself," said Gehlhausen. "I'll put down hundreds of pounds of salt. We don't want anyone to get hurt, it's not worth it."


Dubois County received high marks for the way it weathered winter’s first icy punch.

Students at all the local school corporations were given a snow-day pass and accidents during the morning commute were relatively few and far between. As 8 a.m. neared, the Jasper Police Department had yet to respond to its first mishap and the same could be said for the Dubois County Sheriff’s Department dayshift deputies.

The sheriff’s department had responded to one minor accident prior to 5:30 a.m. and there was a semi jackknifed at I-64’s 64-mile marker, according to Sgt. Stuart Wilson with the sheriff’s department.

Arctic air pushing into the area late Thursday night took the mercury from 58 degrees just before 11 p.m. to below freezing less than four hours later.

The Indiana Department of Transportation had a full callout of plow trucks throughout the state and those drivers could be heard on their radios overnight monitoring the crashing temperatures and bracing for icy conditions.

“Rubber side down,” one INDOT driver told his compatriot just after 1 a.m., referring to the need to keep tires firmly planted on the road surface.

“10-4, Rubber Ducky,” another driver answered.

For Jasper Street Commissioner Jeff Theising, today marked his first major winter snow event since he was appointed to his post two years ago. There was a sheen of ice on his street department complex’s gate when he pulled into the lot to get started prior to 3 a.m. but, he said, the precipitation seemed to predominately pepper down as textured sleet soon after. That textured sleet at least provided a little traction, he added.

“Our last truck rolled out of our lot a little before 4 a.m. and the sleet really came down hard between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m.,” Theising said.

Arctic air pushing into the area late Thursday night took the mercury from 58 degrees just before 11 p.m. to below freezing less than four hours later. Gehlhausen spread salt behind St. Joseph Church on Friday to combat the ice.

Once traffic picked up during the morning commute, the material laid down by Jasper’s snow patrol began to do its work, Theising said.

“If everybody kind of takes their time,” Theising said, “they shouldn’t have any problems.”

With some businesses closing because of the weather, traffic was lighter than usual and those who did get out were keeping their speed down and a respectable distance between themselves and others.

“Very few problems so far this morning,” Indiana State Police Sgt. Todd Ringle tweeted after 8 a.m. “We appreciate everyone that is driving responsibly.”

Kyle Wilkins, a National Weather Service meteorologist who lives in neighboring Crawford County, said it was 29 degrees when he left his home this morning and that temperature was constant until he got to the Ohio River.

“Literally, when I was crossing the bridge, it went up to 30 degrees and by the time I got downtown it was 33 degrees. When he arrived at the NWS Louisville office, the icy coating on his truck began melting off. It was 35 degrees at the Louisville airport, he said.

Wilkins talked about the wintry mix experienced early today switching over to all snow, with at least 2 inches anticipated in the Dubois County area.

Looking at his data, Wilkins said there is a sharp gradient forecast for Dubois County, meaning with the northwest portion of the county anticipated to get about 2 inches of snow and the southeast portion of the county standing to possibly receive 5 inches of snow today.

Blustery cold is forecast for the weekend, with a high of 24 degrees eyed for both Saturday and Sunday.

That means today’s snow will stick around and drivers will need to be alert to slick roadway conditions and icy patches. INDOT is asking the public to give snow plow drivers plenty of room to maneuver and to avoid drivers’ blind spots.

Authorities say motorists should give themselves ample time to get to their destinations.

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