National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Notable Central Indiana Ice storms


Ice on a bush at the NWS - Click to enlarge

Ice from a January 2011 storm

Ice usually makes a visit to central Indiana during the winter, but on occasion ice storms can cause major problems to the area. Below is a chronological look at some of the significant ice storms to visit central Indiana during the past 35 years:

February 1976

An ice storm hit central Indiana beginning late on February 4 and did not let up until the early evening of February 5. The storm was 50 miles wide, centered on a line from Greencastle in western Indiana to New Castle in the east. One half to an inch of ice coated trees, power lines, and telephone lines. One to two inches of ice was reported on many secondary roads. Thousands of trees were heavily damaged or destroyed. Thousands of power and telephone lines were knocked down by the weight of the ice and broken trees. The damage to trees and lines was so bad that many people described it as looking like a tornado went through. Business came to a halt as very few people could get to work. The Indiana National Guard was called out in New Castle to help clear the streets of debris. The ice did not begin to melt until the afternoon February 7 and was not gone until February 9.

January 1983

On the 21st, the southern third of the state received a mixture of sleet, snow and freezing rain during the early morning hours which caused road surfaces to become glazed with ice. The counties most affected were Monroe, Jackson, Clay, Vigo, and Bartholomew where ice accumulation of one quarter to one half inch was reported. Numerous traffic accidents were also reported throughout the area.

March 1988

Freezing rain fell over parts of central Indiana for about 24 hours from the early morning of the 3rd to the 4th. Numerous traffic accidents occurred, area schools were shut down, and thousands of homes were without power. Many homes were without power for 3 days, with some even longer. The ice storm covered an area about 50 miles wide generally along Interstate 70 from around Cataract in Owen County through Indianapolis to Richmond in Wayne County. Few trees in the area escape damage, as ice accumulations from one half inch to 2 inches caused limbs to break off.

March 1991

A destructive ice storm coated much of northern Indiana with 1 to 3 inches of ice on the 12th and 13th. At the height of the storm around 200,000 homes were without power, affecting nearly a half a million people. The cities of Lafayette, Frankfort, Kokomo, and Anderson were nearly shut down. Travel on Interstate 65 was halted. There was widespread damage to trees, and thousands of wooden utility poles were snapped or toppled.  Over 100 steel power line towers were also destroyed. During the ice storm easterly winds gusted to around 40 mph, and this helped contribute to the widespread damage. Many roads in north central Indiana were closed due to downed limbs, trees, and power lines. Some rural areas remained without power until the first part of April. Total damage was estimated between $80 and $100 million dollars.

January 2005

Heavy freezing rain fell across northern portions of central Indiana on the 5th and 6th. Widespread half inch ice accumulations were reported, with isolated one inch or greater amounts. This crippled communities for as much as several days to a week. Electricity was knocked out for as many as 150,000 homes in areas affected by the storm. At least 1000 residents went to shelters opened by the Red Cross. States of emergency were declared in several counties, and hospitals and other emergency services were forced to go to backup power. Millions of dollars in damage was done to trees, power lines, and structures.

February 2007

South of Indianapolis around Valentines Day, freezing rain fell coating some areas with one half to one inch of ice. The hardest hit areas were from Terre Haute to Bloomington and Columbus. Some residents were without power for over 24 hours. More information on the snow part of this storm is available.

January 2009

Up to a half inch of ice fell across far southern sections of central Indiana from the 26th to the 28th. Worse conditions were found across southern Indiana, where up to an inch of ice fell and over 200,000 homes and business lost power. 

January/February 2011

Up to an inch of ice fell across parts of central Indiana from the evening of January 31st to early on February 2. The ice plus winds gusting to over 50 mph caused trees and power lines to be knocked down. Power was knocked out to over 80,000 residents of the area, with some residents out of power for days. The ice from the freezing rain combined with sleet to create significant travel problems. Some school systems closed for several days.