Indy mobilizes full force for storm

Drivers expected to work around the clock

INDIANAPOLIS - As the winter storm warning expanded across Central Indiana, the city of Indianapolis was making its final preparations for the first "snow fight" of the season.

The city will be battling winter conditions with the usual arsenal: plows, drivers and plenty of magnesium chloride.

"All of our seven salt barns will be open for this snow fight, and they're all full," said Lesley Gordon, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Works.

The city will also be pulling out some new tools, Gordon said. Indianapolis has just subscribed to Weather Bug by Earth Network, gaining access to 10,000 live cameras.

"We can go north, south, east, west … it makes no difference," Gordon said. "We can track the weather wherever it's coming from."

The cameras are located all around Marion County and the whole U.S. They allow cities to allow the human eye to make decisions on weather responses, rather than relying only on radar.

"Radar can give you false echoes," said Steve Pruitt, a monitor for Earth Network. "It can show that it's doing something when nothing is actually hitting the ground. With the cameras, you can actually physically look and see if it's on the ground or not."

Gordon said this technology will help public works departments optimize their use of resources by timing their treatments more exactly. She said it's especially critical with forecasts like this one: rain, then sleet, then snow.

"If we go too early while it's just rain, it will just wash off that treatment and waste taxpayer dollars," Gordon said. "And that's not what we want to do."

The first snowfall of the year typically brings slide-offs and crashes. Drivers should be prepared to change their driving habits and increase their distance between other vehicles, Gordon said.

"We do want to encourage everyone to slow down and give themselves plenty of time to commute in the morning," she said.

A full call-out of 90 drivers had reported to work by Thursday afternoon to battle the storm. Drivers were scheduled to work 12-hour shifts around the clock throughout most of the weekend.

DPW was also reminding people that city drivers don't plow residential areas unless 6-or-more inches of snow fall.

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