Officials in Fort Wayne and Allen County declared a travel warning and state of emergency Sunday evening, restricting travel to emergency workers only as heavy snow continued to blanket the city.
The state of emergency remains in effect until 6 p.m. today.
All individuals should refrain from all non-emergency travel. This will allow road crews to continue plowing operations and let police, fire and ambulance services fill the needs of the public, according to a statement issued by the city.
Meanwhile, street crews were working around-the-clock plowing main roads as heavy snow blanketed the city, closing schools – including Fort Wayne Community Schools and IPFW – and even canceling garbage pickup.
Travel warnings were posted by nearly all northern Indiana counties as the snow continued into Sunday night.
Gov. Mike Pence directed the National Guard to deploy 48 highway assistance teams to rescue stranded motorists and help emergency medical services reach people who need medical attention.
By 6 p.m. Sunday more than 8 inches had fallen in parts of Allen County and snow was continuing to fall at nearly 2 inches per hour. Heavy snow was expected to continue until about 8 p.m., after which temperatures were expected to dip, bottoming out between minus 10 and minus 15 degrees by this morning. Tonight and Tuesday morning temperatures were expected to drop to minus 15 to minus 20 degrees.
City officials said plowing would continue 24 hours a day but be limited to main roads as long as snow continued to fall. The city was also salting roads, but would have to switch to different chemicals once temperatures began to plummet.
The city was also working with private contractors to keep roads open, officials said.
The city asked residents to clear snow from around fire hydrants and not allow them to get buried by snow.
Because of the heavy snow and cold, garbage and recycling collection was canceled for today. The city was monitoring the storm and would later adjust the schedule for the rest of the week.
Despite the snow and cold, the U.S. Postal Service said it would make every attempt to deliver critical mail such as medicine and other essential items, along with regular mail, whenever possible. The Postal Service is asking the public to clear snow and ice from pathways leading to mailboxes. Customers should clear their sidewalks, steps and porches and remove piles of snow left by snow plows to give carriers access to their mailboxes.
Deliveries can be delayed if walkways present hazardous conditions or if snow is plowed up against mailboxes.
The Indiana State Police said they were deluged with reports of cars that had slid off the road, particularly on Interstates 69 and 469, as well as U.S. 24 and other highways. Police couldn't offer a number, but said they were swamped with reports.
At the Salvation Army shelter on Clinton Street, four people had already arrived by early afternoon and another was on the way. The number of people arriving would probably speed up once it got dark, a volunteer said.
The Allen County Sheriff's Department was giving rides to the local shelters for people who were homeless or stranded. The shelter, which can accommodate up to 80 people, was expected to remain open until Thursday.
Traffic on roads was light Sunday afternoon, and the traditional flood of panicked buyers at local groceries had subsided.
At Wal-Mart at Apple Glen, there were a few shoppers buying staples, but no customers with carts overflowing with multiple loaves of bread and gallons of milk. At Meijer on Illinois Road, officials said business had been brisk Sunday morning, but it had slowed dramatically once the heavy snow had started.
The tradition of picking shelves clean in anticipation of a coming storm, though, didn't happen.
At the height of the storm, some people were still out on the road. One of them was Taquan Walker, a delivery driver for Papa John's. He said business was good because no one wanted to venture out, but getting around was hard for him.
"I get stuck on every corner," Walker said. "On the side roads, people are stuck all over."