(EVANSVILLE, Ind., December 23rd, 2004, 1 p.m.) -- A one-two punch of wintry weather left parts of southern Indiana paralyzed on Thursday, transforming at least 30 miles of Interstate 64 into a parking lot overnight and into the morning.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the state, the southeastern shore of Lake Michigan braced for its second lake-effect snowfall this week. The National Weather Service forecast as much of a foot of snow Thursday for the Michigan City area, still digging out from under 2 feet of snow that fell last weekend.
"We're still stuck here. It's been about 13 hours," said Ken Sabatini, of Leawood, Kan., who was stranded with his wife and two children on I-64 near Evansville on Thursday morning while on their way to Cincinnati for Christmas. "It's cold outside and we're doing our best to stay inside the car."
Sabatini said some motorists had run out of gas and were sleeping in a stranded Greyhound Bus to stay warm. Temperatures overnight dipped to 12 degrees and windchills were below zero.
"We've got some gas left, so every hour we run it for five minutes to get some warmth in the car," Sabatini said.
Southern Indiana barely had time to catch its frosty breath after a snowstorm Wednesday morning when a second, heavier gust pummeled the region, blocking the eastbound lanes of I-64 near U.S.
41 north of Evansville. Two semitrailers caused the blockage on the highway starting at about 5 p.m. Wednesday when they were unable to get up a hill and rolled back.
Traffic on I-64 was backed up at daybreak Thursday some 25 mils to the Indiana-Illinois state line, police said. Other scattered sections of the highway also were closed.
"We've had people calling all over the United States saying my family member is stranded in I-64," state police Trooper Toni Walden said.
The storm left more than 19 inches of snow in Evansville and 14 to 22 inches in other parts of southern Indiana, said David Humphrey, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Paducah, Ky.
The snowfall of 19.3 inches Wednesday set a record for most snowfall in Evansville in a single day, breaking the old record of 10.9 inches set on Feb. 25, 1993 -- and topping the city's average total winter snowfall of 14.2 inches.
Close to two feet of snow was reported Thursday morning in an area stretching to the northeast from Evansville through the Columbus region to near Richmond.
At least 34 southern and central Indiana counties declared snow emergencies, state emergency management spokesman Bob Demuth said. Many counties restricted non-emergency traffic, with even snow plows becoming stuck in some places.
Gov. Joe Kernan ordered state offices in at least 35 counties closed through Thursday. He also urged motorists to stay off the roads so local officials could respond to emergencies.
James Hartley, 50, of Florence, Ky., said he was on his way to Evansville for some medical tests when his minivan got stuck in a snowdrift on an exit ramp around midnight. He stayed warm by running his heater every 30 minutes.
"Warmth isn't the problem," Hartley said. "It's just the mobility and not knowing when they'll clear off everything so I can get out of here."
A blowing snow advisory was issued Thursday morning by the National Weather Service. The blowing snow was expected to reduce visibility and cause drifts of several feet, Humphrey said.
"Ramps have such high snowdrifts on them, you can't get on the interstate and you get off of it ... you can't move. It's extremely bad," Walden said. "We've never seen it like this."
The Indiana National Guard and the American Red Cross dispatched workers to help rescue motorists, but conditions made getting to them difficult. Those in desperate need were encouraged to turn on their hazard lights.
Two Evansville hospitals requested that residents with four-wheel drive vehicles volunteer to drive in hospital workers.
In New Albany, the Indiana National Guard sent two Humvees to transport doctors and nurses to the hospital, said Alden Taylor, a spokesman for the State Emergency Management Agency.
Paula Werne bundled up her 5-year-old child to go outside and play Wednesday afternoon after being sent home early from her job at Holiday World & Splashin' Safari theme park in Santa Claus, some 40 miles east of Evansville.
"We don't get to make too many snowmen down here," she said.
Temperatures Thursday were forecast for the mid teens, with wind chills around zero. By Thursday night, temperatures will fall near zero. On Christmas morning, they could plunge to 10 below zero.
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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