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Adams County Emergency Management Agency Director John August said this afternoon that the county would be going to code red, the second-highest alert, at 6 p.m. Wednesday. Code red says the following; "Stop and think twice about driving. High winds and drifting occurring. Roads are totally snow-covered or ice-covered. County roads are mostly drifted shut and impassable.
By ERIC MANN
Because of all the white, Adams County is black — meaning Code Black for the worst-possible road and weather conditions.
Commissioners Doug Bauman, Kim Fruechte, and Ed Coil made the Code Black decision at 6 a.m. today, nine or 10 hours after the county went to Code Red, the next-worst condition.
Adams County Emergency Management Director John August said this morning that Decatur Mayor John Schultz concurred with the commissioners' decision, as didt Berne Mayor John Minch.
Code Black means all governmental offices are closed, but it has nothing to do with the closure of any businesses. The county's color-coded condition plan states, "Private business decides whether employees need to report for work. No color code dictates work stoppage for private business."
Many businesses were closed, however.
August said at 7 a.m. that at least five or six vehicles had become stuck on rural roads and were abandoned. In some cases, he said, drivers were unable to see where the road was because of the snow.
After a four and a half-inch snow on Monday night and early Tuesday morning, a mix of sleet and freezing rain put thick coating of ice on top of the snow, making it extremely heavy to lift and move.
Decatur weather station officials said this morning that three and a half inches of snow fell in a period from 7 a.m. Tuesday to 7 a.m. today — along with a quarter of an inch of precipitation that was ice.
Wind was a major problem. Winds of 25 to 35 mph were recorded during the night, with even higher gusts at times. At 8 a.m. today, the Fort Wayne weather bureau was reporting a temperatures of 24 degrees with a southwest wind at 15 mph creating a wind-chll of 11 above.
Adams County Highway Superintendent Mark Mitchel and Decatur Street Superintendent Jeremy Gilbert spoke like twins today as they said it was slow-going getting roads cleared because of the weight of the snow/ice mixture.
Both men also cautioned against anyone driving, with Mitchel saying that not driving should be a given for everyone whenever Code Black is in effect.
Mitchel said his workers started at 6 p.m. with 15 vehicles (13 dump trucks with plows, one pickup truck with a plow, and a road grader). He added that the department had four men, with one plow each, ready throughout last night to help emergency personnel in case of a fire, medical problem, etc.
In Decatur, Gilbert said his staff went to work at 3 a.m., with eight trucks with plows and a road grader with a large plow blade, but planned to add another one or two vehicles to help speed the cleanup process.
Gilbert added that he had one employee "on-call" during the night for any emergency assistance.
No fire runs occurred in the Decatur area in the past 24 hours.
Mayor John Schultz reported that there would be no trash pickups today.
Berne Mayor John Minch said the city was operating on "the same emergency status as the county — black. We don't want anybody out and about. We're buried in snow."
Minch said two snow plows operated throughout the night on Tuesday and into the early hours of today, and were then joined by other plow operators.
"We've kept someone available and on the streets at all times," said Minch.
He said no power outages or other emergencies have been reported in Berne.
No major outages
No major power outages occurred in the county overnight and there are no widespread outages in the Indiana and Michigan Power area, company spokesman Dave Mayne said this morning from the Fort Wayne office.
Mayne said at 8 a.m. that 35 scattered Adams County customers of American Electric Power and its subsidiary, Indiana and Michigan Power, lost electrical service during the night, but all had been restored to the power grid.
Bitter cold next
Old Man Winter refuses to go away — or even take a break. More snow was likely in Decatur today, and the next hammer to drop is the temperature.
The National Weather Service said snow was likely in Decatur after 9 a.m. today, possibly mixed with freezing rain, but only an inch or so was expected. A south wind at 15 to 20 mph will keep the snow blowing and the wind chills uncomfortable.
A high of 22 degrees was predicted for the Decatur area today, the mercury to fall to a low around 12 tonight, with a west wind at 10 to 15 mph making it feel even colder. Now more snow is seen for tonight.
Most sunny skies and a high near only 15 degrees is forecast for Thursday, with a west wind around 10 mph. Thursday night's low is seen dropping to around 2 below, with wind chill values as low as 15 below.
A high near 20 is likely Friday, followed by a low around 14 at night. And there's a 40 percent chance of snow. Highs of 30 and 32 are on tap for Saturday and Sunday.