Mayor gives updates on weather response, downgrades travel advisory

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INDIANAPOLIS (Jan. 7, 2014) – Indianapolis will change its travel status from a watch (orange) to an advisory (yellow) effective at 5 p.m., Mayor Greg Ballard said during a Tuesday afternoon update on the storm.

Ballard said roads around the city are getting better, with temperatures starting to climb out of the dangerously cold level. Ballard said city-county offices would reopen Wednesday, while IndyGo would resume normal operations. He anticipated that many schools and businesses would also reopen Wednesday.

The mayor said about 1,500 people were evacuated by the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, and praised efforts to help people get to safety. The Mayor’s Action Center handled four times the number of calls as usual while the Indianapolis Fire Department handled twice as many calls as normal.

“The worst is behind us, but there’s more to go,” Ballard said.

Indianapolis Power & Light reported about 12,000 outages in the city. Plans are still to get everyone back online by Thursday, though IPL said it was prioritizing jobs and targeting people whose power had been out the longest.

Indy Snow Force is still out plowing the roads, and some neighborhoods got too much snow for contractors to handle. The mayor asked residents to call only if their neighborhood hasn’t been touched.

“If there’s a lane and there’s room to drive, then you don’t need to call,” he said.

Ballard described the roads as “passable” but said they were still slick. He urged drivers to take it slow, allow plenty of time and pack an emergency kit just in case.

“People can’t expect that they’ll get to work in the same amount of time. They can’t expect to get to the grocery in the same amount of time,” Ballard said, urging people to use common sense when hitting the road.

Trash collection will resume Wednesday after being canceled for Monday and Tuesday. Residents should work to clear mailboxes, sidewalks, fire hydrants and storm drains, though Ballard said Indy residents shouldn’t overexert themselves in the cold.

“Don’t push yourselves too far,” he cautioned, citing three cardiac arrests in the city.

Ballard said 911 should be used only in emergency situations, noting that some calls coming into 911 dispatchers could’ve been handled by the Mayor’s Action Center (327-4MAC) or the non-emergency dispatch number (327-3811).

Public Safety Director Troy Riggs echoed Ballard’s comments on reserving emergency channels for emergency situations.

“Plan accordingly. Leave early. Please do everything you can not to call 911 for non-emergency issues,” Riggs said, adding that exhausted emergency personnel need rest.

Three of the city’s 11 radio towers went down during the storm. Officials said there was no disruption in communication because of backups.

Homeland Security Chief Gary Coons said people without electricity and heat packed area shelters. According to Coons, the Red Cross was full Monday night while Salvation Army shelters were nearly to capacity.