Nine counties in Michiana have declared a State of Emergency because of the blizzard conditions. St. Joseph County Indiana is not one of them, but instead had a “Snow Emergency”. In both cases, county officials wanted people to stay off the roads, so what is the difference?
Bill Zimmerman, St. Joseph County Emergency Manager, told us,
"A State of Emergency pretty much shuts everything down. Says, we’re not sure we can get services out, if we can get first responders and police and fire out to handle situations that are going on in the county."
And technically, a State of Emergency is the first step to getting state assistance, if needed.
"We went with a snow emergency," Bill says. "Basically we shut down the city offices, and the county offices and said if you’re not a mission essential, mission critical person, stay home. And we recommended businesses do the same thing."
A Snow Emergency is more of a travel advisory. The Indiana Department of Homeland Security recommends the public be more attuned to these rather than if a county is under a State of Emergency or not. This map of county by county travel advisories is available on WNDU.com. The counties in red are under a Travel Warning, meaning only emergency personnel should be on the roads. Orange refers to a Travel Watch, where only essential travel to and from work and for emergencies is recommended. Yellow means Advisory, and that some travel may be restricted, while white is Caution…no hazards yet but stay tuned for changing conditions.
Another thing that can make this confusing is that the counties are up to their own discretion on whether or not to go with a state of emergency, or travel warning, or watch. There is not a true cookie cutter format for which to use. But rest assured that several entities are in on the decision in each county, and public safety is their number one concern.