Mayor Ballard issues travel warning, urges people to stay inside

Mayor Greg Ballard
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Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard has issued a travel warning for the city of Indianapolis.

The warning makes it illegal for non-emergency vehicles, except for those seeking shelter, to be on city streets.

Earlier Sunday, Ballard urged people to stay inside and for businesses and schools to remain closed Monday, saying temperatures could be deadly.

The mayor announced that Marion County is under a travel watch. He also said that city-county offices will be closed on Monday and he urged businesses that had to open to wait until noon to do so. He says parks and Marion County Fairgrounds are opening buildings for shelter.

Public Safety Director Troy Riggs says police are only responding to emergency runs and weren't taking accident reports except in cases of serious injury or death.

"I want everyone to realize just how serious all of this is right now," Ballard said. "This weather combination that we are seeing right now with all of the snow and the cold is unlike anything we've seen in decades, and I can't emphasize that enough - the cold really scares me such that we could have temperatures that are potentially deadly or life-altering temperatures right now."

The mayor also urged people to check on elderly neighbors and to bring outdoor pets inside.

Mayor Ballard's spokesman Marc Lotter told Eyewitness News Monday morning that Marion County deputies and National Guardsman transported approximately 350 people to various shelters after they lost heat and called the Mayor's Action Center at 327.4MAC.

The Indianapolis Red Cross Center on E. 10th Street reported more than 30 people sheltered there by 5:00 a.m. Monday.

Once the temperature drops overnight to sub-zero, Ballard warned that people should stay inside. "Just a few minutes outside, the skin is open to the air and frostbite can occur. It is so cold that you will be numb and not know that it is occurring. These temperatures that are out there will be lower than what's in your freezer. That's how cold it's gonna be with the wind chill so we want everybody to understand that."

He also warned residents to stay away from and to report downed power lines to 317-261-8111.

Riggs said police are only responding to emergency runs and will not take accident reports unless there's a major injury or fatality. Emergency medical services are using a different transport method Sunday, with patients being taken to the nearest hospital to limit travel.

"Right now our vehicles are doing well. We have plenty of gas, plenty of service and we have back up plans. Because what we see in tough temperatures going down to the level is that we'll have some of our vehicles that will break down, and we have pool cars standing by and available," said Riggs.

"I see exactly why," said Andre Hancock, who was out in the snow earlier Sunday. "People with four-wheel drive think they can keep moving, but if you hit the brakes, it's the same. You're gonna slide just like everyone else."

The Eyewitness News team checked in with counties throughout central Indiana. Here's what authorities are saying about local road conditions.

Bartholomew: Under travel watch. Roads are slick, but open. 

Boone: State of emergency. Crews are reporting many cars stuck.  The travel warning is in effect until at least 2:00 p.m. Monday.

Delaware: State of emergency, but few people are out this morning. 

Hamilton: Officials say "If you're caught on a county road you WILL get a ticket."

The travel warning remains in effect for areas of county north of State Road 32. Emergency workers only should be on those roads. The area south of State Road 32 has been downgraded to a Travel Watch. City streets are not included in either the watch or advisory.

Hancock: State of emergency. An ambulance got stuck on a run in Fortville around 3am, but got out and eventually finished the run. 

Hendricks: Travel warning. Lots of people getting stuck on county roads, including large snow plows. Officials say it "doesn't matter what size vehicle you drive, with the winds and the drifting, if you go out, you're going to get stuck"

Johnson: State of emergency. A snow plow even got stuck at 135 and Whiteland.

Madison: Travel warning

Montgomery: Emergency personnel on the roads only. Authorities say 31 and 231 are impassable and several people are stuck. There is no wrecker service, so vehicles are being left and people taken to hotel or shelters.

Morgan: Snow emergency. Roads are "terrible", especially in the western part. Plows are being used to get emergency crews to people who need help. Snow is drifting 3 to 5 feet.

Putnam: Snow emergency. No wrecker service. Plow trucks are being used to get emergency equipment to those who need help.

Clinton: Snow emergency with power outages.  People are trying to get roads cleared to get utility crews in to fix the problem.

Tipton: Snow emergency.

Shelby: Under orange, but could change to red with drifting.

Henry: Snow emergency.