Indiana crews head south to help restore power from winter storm

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The powerful winter storm moving across the South and all the way up the East coast has left more than half a million homes and businesses without power.

Power crews from Central Indiana are gearing up Thursday morning to help restore power in South Carolina. Duke Energy crews will be leaving soon.

A winter storm that rolled out of the south and is making its way to the northeast has left more than 500,000 homes and businesses without power. The storm is expected to generate at least a half-foot of snow Thursday in parts of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.

It's made roads treacherous and is blamed for at least 11 deaths in the South. Atlanta residents heeded the warnings of icy roads and mainly avoided driving and in Washington DC, the federal government will be closed because of a snowy forecast in the nation's capital. But that wasn't the case in the Raleigh, N. C., area. Normally quick commutes were turned into marathon trips because of slippery roads. Some motorists abandoned their cars and the heavy snow even caused a roof to collapse.

A caravan of bucket trucks will leave Noblesville this morning for South Carolina over 600 miles away. Duke Energy will be sending about 175 Indiana based workers to help out in the parent company's southern service areas. Other Indiana private contractors are also headed south to help with tree cutting and clearing duties and IPL sent six line crews to Baltimore to help Baltimore Gas and Electric with downed lines it was expecting due to the storm. Air travel has also been snarled with over 4,500 flights canceled nationwide.

Hundreds of power crews from Indiana are headed south to help others stuck in icy conditions. Up to 500,000 people in several states are without power from the winter storm.

The I-65 exit at Whiteland are a long way from the storm that struck Georgia and the Carolinas. Hoosier truck stops will soon see a lot of tree trimming and electric utility contractors headed south on I-65 for the rescue.

"The crews got the trucks all fueled up, did whatever maintenance needed to be done," said Duke Energy's Lew Middleton.

Duke Energy crews loaded up in Noblesville with the kinds of supplies they'll need for their trip south Thursday morning.

"Made sure the trucks were as safe and as prepared to go as possible," Middleton said.

About 60 Duke Energy crews from central Indiana will head south Thursday. Even as the storm was still live on weather radar, they were preparing to head to Greensboro, North Carolina. The crews include tree trimmers, linemen and people who help get the workers fed.

"It's a sacrifice for their families, as well, for those people to be away from home," Middleton said.

"Aside from catching up on their sleep and making sure that they're ready to go, they'll be getting warm clothes," said John Roselle with Townsend Tree Service.

Thirty of Roselle's Indiana crews are already southbound and more could move Thursday. They've worked Hurricane Katrina, Superstorm Sandy and more.

"We've been on hurricanes, could be as long as a month," he said. "When we went down to the Kentucky ice storm four, five years ago, we were down there for six weeks. It just depends."

Roselle thinks the ice storm this week will leave a lot of intense damage in localized areas. He hopes the crews can be back home in a week.