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OK, Winter: We've had enough

Wednesday, March 12, 2014 - 10:26 am

At 4:30 a.m. the rain started. Before 5:30 a.m. it turned to that familiar sight: snow. And the familiar message followed: schools closed.

Just when you think it's safe to go outside without bundling up like an arctic explorer, here it comes … again.

Mother Nature kicked us just when we were getting back up. A winter weather travel watch was issued Wednesday morning for all of Allen County, meaning conditions are threatening to the safety of the public.

During a watch, only essential travel, such as to and from work or in emergency situations, is recommended.

A blizzard warning was issued in upstate New York on Wednesday after a day or so of spring-like temperatures teased the region.

Forecasters warned that the storm would drop heavy, wet snow in the Chicago area and northern Indiana, along the Great Lakes in Ohio, Pennsylvania and into upstate New York before dissipating over Canada.

Vehicles in Fort Wayne were losing traction in the heavy, wet snow as they drove in four lanes of traffic on southbound Interstate 69 north of Coldwater Road – which is three lanes. Fort Wayne Police had to close a section on West State Boulevard at Eastbrook Drive because vehicles couldn't make it up the hill toward Wells Street. The same was happening around the city. Meanwhile, high wind blew snow, making it hard to see, while snow covered stop signs. And several residents woke up to power outages.

Shortly after 8:30 a.m., more than 7,100 Indiana Michigan Power customers were out of power in Allen County. Another 159 in Whitley County had lost power, according to the utility.

The National Weather Service predicted possibly 4-6 inches of sleet and snow today, with drifting possible and the thermometer nose-diving to zero tonight after we basked in the 50s the past two days.

“I'm so ready for winter to be over with,” said Doris Lemert, director of marketing and development at Science Central on North Clinton Street.

The numerous weather-related school cancellations this winter have disrupted the field trip schedule at the hands-on science center, Lemert said. The snow days also have been hard on her family.

“I have a daughter who is a senior this year (at Carroll High School), and she is fearful about is she ever going to graduate,” Lemert said.

Science Central planned to be open Wednesday unless there was a snow emergency, she said. She was hoping her daughter and other students wouldn't face yet another school cancellation. But that went unfulfilled. A spokeswoman for Fort Wayne Community Schools said the district will be deciding how to make up yet another day off. It already has extended the school day to make up previously missed class time.

Fort Wayne has been fortunate, however, that the weather hasn't forced cancellation of any major sporting events or conventions, said Dan O'Connell, president and CEO of Visit Fort Wayne.

“It has put a damper on people's movement and travel,” O'Connell said. But while some people didn't make it here to use hotel reservations, other travelers made unplanned stops in Fort Wayne to wait out bad weather. “I think everyone is just getting a little tired of it,” he said.

The relentless nature of this winter has been tough even for people who are used to Indiana weather.

“I've lived in the Midwest my entire life, so harsh winters are to be expected,” said Geoff Thomas, public relations supervisor with the Lutheran Health Network. “This (year) probably ranks at the top when it comes to visits of heavy snow and/or cold temperatures.”

It seems even worse than the Blizzard of 1978 and the heavy snows that produced the Flood of 1982, Thomas said.

“In my recollection, those were shorter in duration,” he added. “(This winter) seems to have no end.”

Thomas praised Lutheran Health employees, which include staff at Lutheran and St. Joseph hospitals, who usually work out a plan with their supervisors in advance to ensure adequate staffing, no matter what winter brings.

Parkview Health employees have a similar attitude, said Eric Clabaugh, public information manager.

“The co-workers are great,” Clabaugh said. “They are always up for the challenge.”

Parkview officials alerted employees Monday about the weather forecast and updated them Tuesday with information about the winter storm warning, Clabaugh said.

They have been told they can come in early if they are worried about how long it will take them to get to work, he said.

They also have been notified some people may be asked to stay late if other workers are delayed or unable to get to work.

Parkview also has a plan to get people to work if they are needed and can't get there on their own, Clabaugh said.

But the winter that won't seem to end has started getting to people.

“The weather is making me just depressed,” said Gonzalee Martin, agricultural extension educator at the Purdue Cooperative Extension's Allen County office.

Metro editor Lisa Esquivel Long and The Associated Press contributed to this story.