Weather related crashes first started being reported to the Indiana State Police Toll Road Post around 9:15 this morning. The Indiana Toll Road continues to be affected by reports of white-out conditions along with sub-zero temperatures.
The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a ‘Blizzard Warning’ for Elkhart, LaPorte, St. Joseph, Fulton, Kosciusko, Marshall, and Starke Counties until 10:00 p.m. Sunday, February 15th. The Indiana Toll Road passes through each of these counties. The NWS advisory warned visibility will be reduced to near zero at times with whiteout conditions. Blowing and drifting snow can be expected along with bitterly cold wind chills, from 10 to 25 below zero. Moderate to heavy lake effect snow accumulations are expected during the span of the warning.
Separate from problems on the Toll Road there have been other crashes reported across northeastern Indiana.
Some of the more significant traffic related incidents included a crash involving around 20 vehicles that occurred earlier this afternoon in Whitley County. This crash was on US 30, west of Columbia City and resulted in the closure of the east and westbound lanes of US 30 near West Lincoln Way. As of 3:30 this afternoon all lanes were reopened.
The foul weather also impacted traffic on I-69 early this afternoon. State police officers, along with county sheriff deputies from Delaware and Grant County, responded to numerous reports of crashes and slide offs on I-69 and adjacent State and County roads. The high winds and snow in this weather system created hazardous driving conditions through the afternoon. These conditions can be expected to continue.
State police troopers from the Pendleton and Peru Posts originally responded to the report of a vehicle crash involving 30 or more vehicles in the southbound lanes of I-69, near the 249 mile marker, which is just four miles north of the US 35 / State Road 28 exit. Deputies from the Delaware County Sheriff’s Department also responded and investigated a four vehicle injury crash in the north bound lanes of I-69. Among the vehicles involved in the crash there was one school bus, five semi-tractor trailer vehicles and more than 20 passenger vehicles involved in clusters of crashes over a quarter mile area around the 249 mile marker.
At least six people were transported to IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital, in Muncie, with unknown injuries. Though not injured, all the students aboard the school bus were transported to the hospital to remove them from the crash scene and get them out of the inclement weather.
INDOT and Delaware County EMA responded to shut down both directions of I-69, northbound at State Road 28 and southbound at State Road 26. The northbound lanes opened after 3:30 this afternoon and one southbound lane was reopened late this afternoon with expectation that all southbound lanes should be open by 9:00 this evening. The major complication at this scene has been the lengthy time required to offload a crashed FedEx truck.
All told, the Indiana State Police report that from 6:00 this morning until 6:00 this evening there were 48 personal injury crashes, 150 property damage crashes, 50 reports of vehicles sliding off the road and 82 motorists received some form of assistance from state police personnel. Fortunately, thus far, there has been no loss of life. The majority of the reported incidents have been along the Toll Road and Northeast I-69, as well as State and County Roads
People living in the area of the NWS Blizzard Warning are encouraged to avoid travel except in the case of an emergency.
Avoid calling local law enforcement or the state police to ask about road and weather conditions. Public safety phone lines need to be kept clear for true emergency calls. The BEST source for local weather condition reports and safety recommendations is from your local radio and TV news service.
If you MUST travel, check road conditions by visiting INDOT’s website at www.in.gov/indot before you start your trip.