A rare winter storm wreaked havoc on Indiana in February, dumping 17 inches of snow in some spots and nearly a half-inch of ice in others. In response, INDOT pulled out all the stops to plow and clear snow and ice from our roadways. By the time the early February storm has passed, approximately 1,700 employees in 950 plow trucks had applied 89,000 tons of salt and 274,000 gallons of brine to our roads. They drove more than a million miles and spent more than 56,600 hours patrolling and clearing ice and snow.
Meteorologists noted that not since 2014 had Indiana seen such an all-out winter assault on the entire state. A one-two punch made it happen: an Arctic system followed by a “Panhandle hook” storm.
Many INDOT crews had to deal with the rain-to-snow transition, which limited the effectiveness of pretreatments because the system started as rain in most spots. Also, the flash freeze of the wet pavement and the accumulating snow created a hard pack of snow on some highways.
Snowfalls measured in Indiana cities on Feb. 2 ranged from more than 11 inches in South Bend to almost 9 in West Lafayette, and more than 4 in Fort Wayne.
Snowfall totals for the entire Feb. 2-4 storm included: 17 inches of snow in Leiters Ford in Fulton County; 15.5 inches in Camden in Carroll County; and 15.2 in Peabody in Whitley County. Other snow totals included 14 inches in Warsaw; 13.2 in West Lafayette; 12.8 in Kokomo, and 10.5 in Muncie, 10.5. Fort Wayne received 9.5 inches of snow while Indianapolis measured 7.6 inches.
Freezing rain, ice, sleet, and slush came first in many locations; the heaviest ice ranged from 0.1 to 0.4 inches in southern Indiana, north of Louisville, and the sleet/snow combination included a 5-inch accumulation (4 snow, 1 sleet) in Petersburg in Pike County and 1.5 inches in Evansville.
INDOT excelled during the storm with smart planning, constant internal and external communication, and great execution by our employees. Before the storm, INDOT hosted a statewide planning call, which included all INDOT district operations and communications leadership, all NWS offices, a few Indiana Department of Homeland Security representatives, and a mix of Indiana State Police district operations and communications leadership.
INDOT Communications did its part with dozens of social media posts and media appearances. Social media posts pointed the public to the revamped 511 site that shows real-time conditions and where our plows are currently located. A new 511 site feature is that the public could view current photos taken from cameras mounted on many of our plows as well as see photos from up to two hours previous. Although many INDOT trucks were equipped with cameras last winter, this was the first big storm that enabled INDOT to push the feature statewide. Many of these photos were used by media statewide to showcase the extreme weather conditions.