Confusion reigns over snow emergencies - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Confusion reigns over snow emergencies

Lt. David Fisher, Shelby County Sheriff's Department Lt. David Fisher, Shelby County Sheriff's Department

Scott Swan/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - Eyewitness News has heard from viewers confused by the phrase "snow emergency." Boone County declared a snow emergency after the blizzard. The sheriff said he wanted people to stay off the roads. Yet the Bob Evans Restaurant in Lebanon was open for lunch. Madison County had a snow emergency, Wal-Mart stayed open. The criteria for a "snow emergency" declaration depends on where you live.

Counties across Indiana are digging out. Many roads are impassable and driving is treacherous. A map showing current snow emergencies has red counties with snow emergencies. That means people should stay off the road.

"We did see a big increase in the closure of county roads based on some wind and additional snow that we received," said Lt. David Fisher, Shelby County Sheriff's Department.

The counties in yellow on the state map are restricting travel to emergency and work only.

The snow totals vary by county, and so does the criteria to issue a snow emergency.

In Madison County, the sheriff, county commissioners and highway department declare a snow emergency when conditions become dangerous. The same is true in Hendricks County, where officials have a healthy budget to fight snow.

In Johnson County, a snow emergency is declared when traffic hinders public safety responses or prevents the highway department from clearing roads. In Hancock County, the President of the Board of Commissioners usually calls a snow emergency when heavy snow is coupled with high winds.

Whether to call it a snow emergency or a travel restriction is made at the local level, not by state officials.

"We try to leave much of that decision making strictly to the local level. They're the ones with their feet on the ground. They're the ones seeing the conditions, we leave that decision making up to them in terms of what level of emergency to declare and then to what extent they want to enforce it," said Andy Zirkle, Indiana Department of Homeland Security.

Until the state decides to standardize the system for declaring snow emergencies, residents will just have to muddle through. The best way to keep up is to check with the Department of Homeland Security: See a map of current snow emergencies.

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