Winter came early to Noble County last week, and brought with it more than the usual amount of winter problems.
Over two hundred weather related complaints were called into the Noble County Sheriff’s Department Tuesday and Wednesday. Most were related to wet, heavy snow that not only pulled cars off roadways, but weighed down trees and utility lines, leading to widespread roadway obstructions and electric outages.
About six and a half inches of snow was officially recorded in Noble County, on top of around two inches of rain that came down before the temperature started falling. Earlier problems involved water rising over some area roadways; in several cases drivers ventured into the water and found themselves stalled. By early afternoon the rain changed over to snow, and roads began turning into skating rinks.
A Watch advisory, meaning only essential travel was recommended, was issued by Noble County authorities, while the National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for almost all of northeast Indiana. Some areas west of Noble County received up to ten inches of snow.
Most property damage was caused by the accidents and by trees falling onto utility poles and lines. The snow initially weighed tree limbs and wires down, causing some of them to break. Later, as snow began to melt, power lines rebounded upward, with the strain making more of them part.
Power outages were scattered throughout the area, effected an estimated 3,300 Noble REMC and over 1,700 American Electric Power customers in Noble County alone.
Snow was indirectly responsible for a car fire at around 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, when a driver trying to free a stuck car overheated it, causing it to burst into flames. Several vehicles were reported stuck in snow in the area of that fire, along CR 200 N west of Albion.
Albion was hard hit, with about two dozen related complaints in or near town limits. A tree fell across South Liberty Street, and another came down on North York. Sparking electric lines and transformers were reported along with downed utility lines in several places, with one causing a tree to start burning near Oak and Hazel Streets. In other places weighed down wires and branches hung low, threatening to snag passing vehicles or fall down to block streets.
A car slid into a stop sign at Seventh and Seneca Streets; other accidents were reported on Main Street near Liberty and Orange Streets, while semis got stuck in deep snow in the east side industrial park.
All Town of Albion Departments were called out; Utility workers cleared snow and limbs, Police investigated accidents and helped with traffic control, and firefighters guarded against fire spread from arcing wires and transformers. Albion firefighters were called to an accident at US 33 and CR 50 N, to help with extricating an occupant caught in a wrecked vehicle. They also responded out of town to a tree that reportedly dropped onto the road and power lines at county roads 600 N and 200 W. A tree had to be removed from SR 9, about a mile north of Albion.
Several other Noble County Fire Departments also came out to help handle electrical related fires and accidents, joining County and State police and highway crews and power company linemen, as well as other agencies. Noble County Highway personnel helped free an ambulance and police car that got stuck on CR 150 E, near 400 N.
Power outages caused a traffic light at the east junction of US 6 and SR 9 to go out, while blowing snow reportedly covered lights along SR 3, contributing to the hazardous conditions. At least one accident reportedly resulted from drivers not being able to see the lights.
A hit and run accident reportedly brought a utility pole down across Wolf Lake Road, near US 33, early Wednesday. The vehicle involved would have suffered heavy front end damage before the driver fled, leaving the pole down, a transformer smashed, and power out in the area.
The approximate total of incidents reported to Sheriff’s Department dispatchers included:
43 downed power lines and utility poles, or sparking transformers.
86 slide-offs, disabled vehicles, or vehicles stuck in the snow.
26 trees and limbs blocking roadways, or flooding problems.
43 accidents, several of them involving personal injuries.
4 automatic alarms believed to be caused by power outages.