INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The second wave of a powerful winter storm spitting snow, sleet, ice and high winds barreled into Indiana on Tuesday, and emergency officials urged people to stay off the roads and prepare for frigid power outages.
At least seven Indiana counties declared states of emergency by Tuesday night, spokeswoman Emily Norcross of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security said. They included Clinton County, about 40 miles northwest of Indianapolis, where most businesses were closed and most drivers stayed off roads.
"We're getting hammered right now with freezing rain, sleet and ice," said emergency operations officer Sam Payne.
University campuses across the state canceled classes, many workplaces dismissed early and Gov. Mitch Daniels allowed state government workers across Indiana to go home by mid-afternoon ahead of the storm that could dump 18 inches of fresh snow on already blanketed northern Indiana and an inch of ice on power lines, tree limbs and roads across central Indiana.
John Kaufeld of Fort Wayne said high winds and steady snow made conditions "grim" Tuesday night. He said he and his wife filled jugs of water and bought instant logs for the fireplace in case they lost power. His wife, Jenny, prepares meals in advance and freezes them, but Kaufeld wasn't worried about the food spoiling.
"If worse comes to worst, we'll just open the freezer and put it all out in the snow," he said.
As janitor Blaine Sechrest mopped up snow and ice tracked in an Indianapolis office building lobby, he worried about the ice storm cutting power to his home, where his wife, Aurelia, relies on an electric oxygen machine. She has a battery-powered unit for emergencies.
"She's got to have electricity. We don't want the power going out," said Sechrest, 57. "We always have a fear for bad weather."
Power companies reported outages Tuesday night affecting about 50,000 homes and businesses.
South Bend Mayor Stephen Luecke said deep snow already on the ground made clearing roads all the more difficult, but street crews would try to widen pathways for vehicles.
"We believe as long as we can keep our roads open and passable, we want to keep the city functioning," Luecke said. "If conditions get too rough, we're not going to endanger our plows or other people out there."
Asked if he was sick yet of a winter that has already dumped nearly 75 inches of snow on his city, including a record 26 inches in one day last month, Luecke replied, "Not yet, but we're getting there."
With more than a foot of snow expected in northern Indiana, the South Shore commuter railroad temporarily suspended service between South Bend and Michigan City, spokesman John Parsons said. And the Indiana Toll Road, or Interstates 80-90 across the state's northernmost tier of counties, temporarily banned double and triple trailers.
At the Statehouse in Indianapolis, House and Senate chambers were dark and empty by midmorning and hallways normally teeming with lobbyists were mostly barren. Beverly Smith, who runs a snack bar in the basement, had few customers so she busied herself with other chores.
"I'm just going to stock up and clean up," she said.
While many workers and their children took a snow (and ice) day away from their jobs and school, others got busy.
State officials said more than 850 National Guard soldiers and airmen were positioned around Indiana to help with storm-related problems along roadways and emergencies like transporting stranded people to hospitals. The American Red Cross had 26 shelters across Indiana on standby.
The Indiana Department of Transportation mobilized 760 trucks statewide working to clear highways. Driver Jerry Bartos, 68, of LaPorte was among the state plow drivers working 12-hour shifts.
"You've got to kind of psych yourself up for it because you know what to expect and you know what's coming," Bartos said.
In nearby South Bend, Street Commissioner Sam Hensley said he expected sustained winds of up to 30 mph and gusts up to 50 mph.
"If we get all the snow we're supposed to get, we're going to have drifting of 4 to 8 feet," Hensley said.
Two motorists and a state police trooper were injured Tuesday morning when a car slid into them as the trooper investigated an earlier crash on Interstate 74 near Shelbyville, about 15 miles southeast of Indianapolis. The trooper was not badly hurt, but both motorists suffered serious injuries, state police said.
Schools from Terre Haute to Richmond closed Tuesday. Among the universities canceling classes were Purdue's main campus in West Lafayette, Indiana University in Bloomington, Kokomo and Richmond, IUPUI and Indiana State in Terre Haute.
Numerous flights in and out of Indianapolis International Airport were canceled Tuesday. The airport has been using just one of its runways since about 9 p.m. Monday, airport spokeswoman Susan Sullivan said. No large numbers of stranded passengers were expected.
Associated Press writers Tom Coyne in South Bend and Jeni O'Malley, Rick Callahan and Deanna Martin in Indianapolis contributed to this report.