ALLEN COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) — As Allen County residents woke up Tuesday to nearly a foot of new snow, many wondered whether travel would be restricted.
The Allen County Homeland Security office issued a travel watch after the snowfall, which allows only essential travel because conditions were deemed to be threatening to the safety of the public. A travel warning would have restricted travel to emergency management workers only.
“(Why) is the county not turning red?” one WANE 15 viewer wrote. “They (are) making it so people are risking it all to get to work after the plows stopped last night. All other counties around us are red.”
In fact, Whitley, Wells, Adams, Wabash, Grant, Blackford and Jay counties are all ‘red,’ or under a travel warning, as of Tuesday morning. The rest of northeast Indiana is under a travel watch.
Allen County issued a statement after fielding “several questions and complaints” about the “appropriate” decision to issue a travel watch instead of a warning. It comes down to jurisdiction.
Indiana’s travel advisory system has three levels: an Advisory, a Watch and a Warning. The first two levels can be issued by our office. They are only “recommendations” to the local public, businesses, schools, etc. They are not compulsory, they have no authority of law. They are simply recommendations that travel (for some reason) may be hazardous and the public should use caution. For businesses, these levels simply give the employer specific information to make their own decision as to whether they open or close. Local government cannot tell a business they must close due to weather. That decision must be made by the business. The business must establish their own policies for employees regarding work/no work during inclement weather events
The travel Warning level is more complicated. Our office cannot issue a Warning. A Warning requires the executive (Mayor, Commissioner, Governor) to fist declare a local disaster or emergency. Then, with an emergency declared – they have the authority to change existing laws temporarily (like restricting travel, making up new rules). For example, if you have a valid driver’s license and a valid license plate on your vehicle – you can drive anywhere and anytime you want. The Mayor, Commissioners, Governor do not have the authority to tell you not to drive (normally). So in order to issue a warning, certain legal standards need to be met, legal restrictions apply, and the application of the travel warning order does not close businesses – it only restricts (with exceptions) certain travel.
Issuing a travel Watch was the most-appropriate level of public notification for today’s weather conditions.
We completely understand the concern and frustration of a system like this and how so many businesses and government levels treat it differently. We try to make the best decision we can for the most number of people. We’re sure every decision we make is not “the best” for everyone, but we really do try to do the most good for Allen County residents.
The Allen County Highway Department reported just before 9 a.m. that all of its crews had been deployed since 5 a.m. with equipment to plow and treat county roads. Crews were expected to continue working through the day until approximately 5 p.m.
Plow trucks were focused on main and secondary county roads. The highway department said it was “unlikely” crews wouldbe able to treat subdivision streets Tuesday.