INDIANAPOLIS - As temperatures inched out of the single digits Wednesday, more drivers were expected to hit the roads slowly but surely.
On Tuesday, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard said city conditions were getting better while travel warnings and advisories remained in place across much of the state. Temperatures were expected to improve slightly during the day before a more substantial warm-up later in the week.
There were numerous minor crashes and slide-offs during the early-morning hours as people attempted to get to work with road conditions just as bad Tuesday as they were Monday, worse in some cases.
While the interstates in Marion County were generally slick, but passable, many residential streets are like skating rinks, with the dry snow that gave at least some traction gone, replaced by a solid, thick layer of ice.
Tuesday afternoon, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard held a news conference to go over how the city's dealt with the snow and blustering temperatures. His biggest announcement was the city is lowering its travel advisory from orange to yellow at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Ballard said the city's fire crews have reported going on twice as many runs as usual, and that the Indy Snow Force is still out in "full force."
"The snow force is now sending smaller trucks into neighborhoods," Mayor Ballard said. "If no one has shown up to your neighborhood, call the snow force. But if there is one lane there (even one), you should be able to get out."
Ballard said officials expect the city to get back to as close to normal as possible by Wednesday, which is also when city and county government offices will open back up.
IndyGo will also resume full operations Wednesday, Ballard said, as will trash collection (for those who usually get trash picked up on Wednesdays). Trash collection that was canceled on Monday and Tuesday will resume next week.
As for the change in travel advisory, Ballard said "yellow" does not mean drive with disregard.
"Use caution everywhere," Ballard said. "That's what 'yellow' means."
Another issue Ballard said the city is seeing? Too many 911 calls that don't merit a 911 call.
"911 is getting some phone calls that - probably - they shouldn't be getting," Ballard said. He said to call non-emergency police numbers such as 317-327-3811 if anyone is experiencing a non-emergency issue and to keep 911 open for true emergencies.
When asked how much the city has spent so far on the snow, Ballard's first response was, "I have no idea."
He did say, however, they had guessed how much it would cost.
"Three to 4 inches was (estimated to be) about a million bucks," Ballard said. "But (at this point) we're over that, pretty easily."
In Hendricks County, officials warned motorists to heed the travel warning and stay off the roads.
"Police departments are reporting roads are becoming like ice rinks due to the sun and extremely cold temperatures," said Brownsburg fire Battalion Chief Stephanie Martindale. "Many have been traveling on Hendricks County roads, and law enforcement is having problems keeping up with all the slide-offs."
With temperatures in the single-digits on Tuesday, there is not much road crews can do to improve the situation. Only warmer temperatures will help with that.
As of Tuesday morning, more than 30 counties in central Indiana were still under travel warnings, meaning that travel was restricted to emergency workers only. By Tuesday evening, only five counties were under travel warnings.
Many more counties remain under a travel watch, meaning that only essential travel to and from work and emergency travel is recommended.
Hamilton County lifted the travel warning for the northern part of the county, placing the entire county under travel watch status.
Road conditions were better in southern Indiana, but worse in northern Indiana, where Interstate 65 reopened late Tuesday morning after being closed between Lafayette and Merrillville for most of Monday.
"Drivers are advised to use extreme caution, take it slow and travel at their own risk," said Debbie Calder, Indiana Department of Transportation communications director. "Dangerously icy conditions will not likely improve across west-central Indiana until temperatures rise tomorrow."
Blowing and drifting of snow had made parts of I-65 impassable, cutting central Indiana off from Chicago.
As of 4 p.m. Tuesday, ISP said I-65 North was back open after it was closed south of Indianapolis, from mile marker 76 to mile marker 95. That's between the Edinburgh and Whiteland exits. Southbound I-65 was not closed in that area.
Temperatures are expected to warm
into the 20s on Wednesday and into the 30s on Thursday, though a little more snow returns to the forecast. The full forecast is here -- http://www.theindychannel.com/weather