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Indiana's winter reprieve brings threatening weather

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Wednesday, February 19, 2014 - 5:15 pm

INDIANAPOLIS — Sunshine and milder temperatures gave Indiana residents a break from the snowy, harsh winter Wednesday, but their relief was expected to be short-lived despite a predicted warm-up.

National Weather Service meteorologists say temperatures that could hit the 50s and 60s on Thursday also could bring two other spring-like hazards — high winds and flooding — before temperatures drop into the icebox again next week.

"It's just such a yo-yo effect right now," said Amberly Peterson, 33, a corporate communications specialist in downtown Indianapolis. "I'm just concerned about having warm and thunderstorms one day and then blizzards the next."

Indiana is under a slight risk for severe weather Thursday as a cold front pushes through. But a bigger concern appears to be flooding. Forecasters say up to an inch of rain could fall on ground still covered by snow, triggering mild to moderate flooding.

The severity depends on the location.

The northern half of the state could see temperatures in the 50s thaw deep snow that's on the ground, said Lonnie Fisher, a meteorologist at the service's northern Indiana office in North Webster. Snow is still piled 7 to 18 inches deep in some areas and contains up to 4 inches of water. Warm temperatures will cause the snow to melt, and heavy rain will compound the issue because the ground is still frozen and won't be able to absorb the water.

Ice trapped in frozen rivers and streams also will be a problem, because water from the thaw that normally flows into streams won't have anywhere to go.

Fisher said some rivers and lakes in northern Indiana are frozen up to 6 inches deep. "Most areas could see at least some minor flooding," he said.

LaGrange and Huntington counties in northern Indiana said Wednesday that they planned to offer sandbags for residents concerned about flooding.

Indianapolis resident Leslie Redman said she's worried about street flooding in the area where she lives, near the White River on the city's north side. But worrying is about all she can do.

"I've lived here all my life, so I know you can have a good winter or a bad winter. It is what it is," she said.

Wind is a bigger concern in central Indiana, where thunderstorms are expected to roar through Thursday night, weather service meteorologist Marc Dahmer in Indianapolis said.

Sustained winds of 20 to 25 mph and gusts of 60 mph are likely, he said, and some weak tornadoes are possible.

Forecasters also are keeping an eye on an ice dam on the Wabash River in Carroll County. Weather service hydrologist Al Shipe says the dam is 6 inches deep and stretches for 7 miles.

"A lot of bad things could happen tomorrow," Dahmer said.

For some businesses, however, the weather is helping their bottom line. Home repair companies are getting more calls from homeowners concerned about storm gutters stuffed with leaves and ice. If untouched, that water can seep in underneath a home's roof and cause damage costing thousands of dollars, said Chris Coolidge, head of operations at Wellman Exteriors in Indianapolis.

"I would definitely say this storm is getting us a little more business," Coolidge said.

Temperatures are expected to remain in the 40s for a few days, but beginning Sunday they're expected to resume their frigid ways, hitting lows in the teens and highs in the 20s or 30s.