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Red weather warning

By Jeff Terrill

Fort Wayne Reader

2014-01-10


The polar vortex taught me a few things about thawing pipes and keeping a furnace running. I also learned that there’s some confusion about when and if an Indiana driver can hit the road during a severe weather alert.

Indiana recently switched over to a uniformed color-coded weather warning system in an effort to make it easier for people to know when driving on public roadways during a weather emergency is prohibited. The red warning is the most severe. After the record cold weather closely followed the foot of snow into town, I spent some time on the Internet to see if I would be able to drive into work on Monday.

I started with a local on-line news site. There I read that Allen County was under a weather emergency until the following evening. What did that mean? A few minutes later, one of my law partners called to discuss whether we would be open for business on Monday. Understandably, he was worried about our staff driving in the dangerous conditions.

He referred me to an Indiana Department of Homeland Security website that mentioned we were under a red warning, which means “travel may be restricted to emergency manager workers only.” So, we discussed whether the word “may” meant “is” or “could be.” The Indiana State Police were “advising that travel in counties under a red travel advisory should only be for emergency purposes.” Were those recommendations or a mandate?

We were looking for something more definitive I guess.

I was surprised none of the media outlets or government websites stated that it was against the law to drive during Monday’s weather emergency. I wondered what would happen to a driver who was caught violating the red warning.

I found my answer. One government website stated that any vehicle that gets stuck or blocks an emergency vehicle during a red warning “may be pushed out of the way by any means possible.” And the driver will be billed for any damage caused to the emergency vehicle.

Things were becoming much clearer…until I read that employees should check with their employers to see if the company will be closed because “any business closure is at the discretion of the business owner.” Did that mean an employee could drive to work if his employer doesn’t close?

So many questions, so few answers. I thought about calling the Indiana State Police to get some clarity. But then I read to “please avoid calling state, county, and local law enforcement…for updates.”

It was all too much. Staying home was a much simpler than trying to figure out if I could drive.

Maybe that was the point.

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Jeff Terrill is a partner/shareholder with the law firm of Arnold Terrill Anzini, P.C. Mr. Terrill represents clients accused of crimes throughout northeast Indiana. You can contact Mr. Terrill with any questions or comments at his office at 260.420.7777 or via email at jterrill@fortwaynedefense.com. Learn more about his firm at www.fortwaynedefense.com. This article expressed opinions and observations of the author, is not intended as legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader. Please consult a qualified attorney with any legal questions or issues you might have. Thank you.

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