NewsLocal News / January 6, 2014

Governor Declares State of Emergency For 29 Counties

Lesley Weidenbener - The StatehouseFile.com
Governor Declares State of Emergency For 29 Counties

Gov. Mike Pence has signed an executive order declaring a state emergency in 29 counties – a number that could increase – because of snow and cold temperatures.

However, the governor said state government operations will resume at 10 a.m. Tuesday. The General Assembly planned to return at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The 29 counties were the ones “most affected by the storm."

“We will continue to respond to this serious winter storm and evaluate its impact on other Indiana counties going forward,” Pence said.

The counties included in the declaration are Clinton, Delaware, Elkhart, Fulton, Grant, Howard, Jasper, Kosciusko, LaGrange, Lake, LaPorte, Madison, Marshall, Montgomery, Newton, Noble, Porter, Pulaski, Rush, St. Joseph, Starke, Steuben, Sullivan, Tipton, Vermillion, Vigo, Wabash, White, and Whitley.

Pence said the emergency declaration “lays a foundation for us to seek federal assistance and a federal emergency declaration.” However, he said it’s not clear yet whether Indiana would qualify for federal help.

Wnow totals are approaching record levels in some communities.

“It continues to be a dangerous winter storm, despite the sunshine,” Pence said. “We are talking about the kind of temperatures and travel conditions that represent real peril to Hoosiers who venture out in the next 24 to 36 hours.”

Northern and Central Indiana have been hit hardest by the storms – which brought as much as 15 inches of snow – and Pence said he was moving highway and other personnel from southern Indiana to the Fort Wayne and LaPorte areas to help.

Meanwhile, 250 members of the Indiana National Guard are now on active duty and spread throughout the state to assist motorists and local law enforcement. State Adjutant General Martin Umbarger said the soldiers have used their Humvees to help local emergency officials power through snow-covered roads to get to people that need help. They’ve also taken individuals who need medical assistance to area hospitals.

State officials said at least one death – the victim of a car accident in Henry County – has been attributed to the storm.

The governor said he’s ordered Indiana Department of Homeland Security officials to evaluate conditions in additional communities to determine whether they should be added to the declaration, which he plans to sign later today.

“There is a broad range of concerns” in the counties, he said. They include power outages, drifting snow, impassable roads and other issues.

Interstate 65 remains closed from Lafayette north to Gary and a section of I-80/I-94 is also closed, as are a number of state and local roads.

Pence closed state government on Monday out of what he called an “abundance of concern” for state employees and as a way to keep tens of thousands of people off the roads while crews were working to clear snow.

Leaders in the legislative and judicial branches also closed their offices and canceled operations on Monday.