Street and highway crews prepare for winter’s return

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- You sure wouldn’t know it’s February by looking around central Indiana Tuesday.

Temperatures hovering around 60 degrees had people walking around outside in sweatshirts and fleeces. Despite rainfall during the day, we even saw some people wearing shorts.

Weather Authority Meteorologist Jim O’Brien says central Indiana has seen thirteen days with temperatures at or above 50 degrees since January 1. A handful of those days saw temperatures at or above 60 degrees.

O’Brien says the reason for the mild temperatures right now is that central Indiana is sitting in a “split stream.”

“We’re not tapping into the real cold polar air that we’re more accustomed to in winter time,” O’Brien said. “We’re actually in between two jet streams.”

We’re not setting any weather records this season, but it is definitely unusual.

“Sometimes we get on the warmer side of that jet, sometimes we get on the colder side of the jet,” O’Brien said. “And that’s the reason why we’re seeing all these fluctuations right now.”

And while Hoosiers have enjoyed a relative lack of snowfall this winter, conditions are expected to return to normal in the next couple days. Temperatures are predicted to drop into the 30s between Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning. Temperatures around the Wednesday morning commute are expected to hover right around the freezing mark. Then, snow is expected to arrive mid-to-late morning Wednesday.

Fortunately for drivers, the warm pavement around central Indiana is expected to melt any snowfall that occurs early Wednesday.

“It may accumulate in the grassy areas, and that’s about it,” O’Brien said.

Street and Highway Department leaders know a couple degrees warmer or colder can make a big difference in terms of icing on roadways. That’s why surrounding departments are planning to have salt truck drivers patrolling for slick spots.

INDOT officials are planning to have 93 salt trucks running routes and monitoring pavement temperature sensors through Wednesday morning commute. Those sensors will tell the drivers if they need to drop salt in any areas where the surface temperature drops below 32 degrees, paying special attention to bridges and overpasses.

The Indianapolis Department of Public Works also plans to have salt truck drivers patrolling routes and watching for slick spots overnight. The department plans to reassess conditions Wednesday morning to make their game plan for the rest of Wednesday.

Hamilton County Highway crews will be running similar patrols.

“We are going to have ours covered at all hours starting tomorrow morning,” said spokesperson Brandi Turner. “And then they will run as long as we need them to, just to battle the snow, if we get any kind of ice.”

After the snowfall in the first part of the day Wednesday, the colder threat is expected to move in.

“It’s probably best to treat after the snow tomorrow, because temperatures are going to get down in the teens early Thursday,” O’Brien said. “So the only concerns we may have is black ice early on Thursday morning.”

As for the rest of this winter season, O’Brien says we may not see any more extended periods of freezing temperatures.

“I don’t see it happening this winter,” he said. “I think now that we’re already into February, we’re gaining more daylight. That’s really going to inhibit a long extended period. Yes, we’re going to have some cold shots of winter weather still around. But they may not linger as long as what’s more accustomed to February or even early March weather.”