Discover the Most Damaging Ice Storm in Indiana’s History That Shut Down the State


Indiana, located in the midwestern United States, is no stranger to harsh winter weather due to its northern latitude. Hoosiers are adept at preparing for a variety of weather situations, including dangerous icy and slippery roads and sidewalks.

However, even with good planning, ice storms may be exceedingly disruptive. Let’s look at the most severe ice storm that hit Indiana, forcing the closure of various cities and routes.

Ice Storms vs. Snowstorms

Because of its geographical position, Indiana regularly experiences both snow and ice storms. Heavy snowfall is common in Indiana’s northern regions while freezing rain falls in the center and southern sections. Freezing rain happens when droplets get supercooled and freeze when they come into touch with frozen surfaces or objects. Raindrops produce a small film of ice on whatever they come into contact with because they are still liquid.

Even modest quantities of ice can create severe disruptions in both urban and rural locations. Coatings as thin as a half-inch can put too much strain and weight on electrical wires and tree limbs. Furthermore, large amounts of ice can cause significant and expensive damage. A great example of this occurred in 1991, when a big ice storm devastated a large area of Indiana, causing costly devastation and considerable inconvenience.

The Worst Ice Storm in Indiana History

Many Indiana people still remember the ice storm of 1991. This strong storm struck the state’s northern portion in late winter, notably on March 12th and 13th. Its impacts were noted even in Anderson, some 34 miles northeast of Indianapolis. Anderson, Lafayette, Frankfurt, and Kokomo were all ground to a halt by one to three inches of ice on roads, electricity wires, trees, and residences.

Travel became exceedingly hazardous, with Interstate 65, which runs north-south towards the Gulf of Mexico, entirely immobilized. To preserve safety, towns, and counties stopped minor routes until personnel could clear downed power lines and trees.

Discover the Most Damaging Ice Storm in Indiana's History That Shut Down the State (1)

The storm produced significant power disruptions in the impacted area, leaving some 209,000 households and 500,000 people without power. The National Weather Service stated that heavy ice accumulation caused the entire ruin of over 100 steel power line towers.

The situation was exacerbated by severe easterly winds, with gusts exceeding 40 mph. These terrible weather conditions exacerbated the cold and ice, making it exceedingly difficult to restore electricity for several days in many areas.

Damages From the Worst Ice Storm in Indiana

The impacted areas in Indiana suffered $26.8 million in property damage.

The aftermath of an ice storm is an intimidating sight. Downed power wires, towers, and tree branches litter the area, requiring a large clean-up effort. Not only does this devastation take a great amount of time and effort to repair, but it also comes at a high cost. The biggest ice storm in Indiana history caused an estimated $80 to $100 million in damage, underlining the financial impact of such natural catastrophes.

During the ice storm, Governor Evan Bayh of Indiana declared a state disaster emergency in 18 counties. This encompassed Tippecanoe, Benton, Howard, and Delaware counties. The storm produced widespread property damage and power disruptions, resulting in 43 injuries and six sad fatalities. Recognizing the extent of the devastation, Governor Bayh sought federal assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on March 21, 1991.

In his letter, he stressed the severe harm and financial hardship that will be imposed on Indiana people. According to a high-ranking PSI executive, the recent storm that went over Indiana, particularly central Indiana, was one of the most severe in the previous 25 years, causing significant damage.

The Aftereffects of the Worst Ice Storm in Indiana

In mid-March, Indiana faced an unexpected ice storm, which was followed by another emergency. The ice storm occurred later than usual, posing substantial problems for the state.

However, the situation was exacerbated when temperatures rose in the following weeks, causing the snow and ice on the ground to melt quickly. As a result, flooding impacted several regions of the state, making clean-up and rehabilitation much more difficult than previously.

Other Notable Icy Weather Events Affecting Hoosiers

  • February 1976: From late February 4th to the evening of February 5th, 1976, a 50-mile-wide ice storm dumped one to two inches throughout central Indiana. Trees and electricity wires were damaged, and the ice did not completely thaw until February 9.
  • March 1988: This ice storm also reached central Indiana, affecting residents from Owen County to Wayne County. Even Indianapolis was not spared. This 50-mile-wide storm dumped freezing rain for almost 24 hours from March 3 to March 4.
  • January 2005: On January 5th and 6th, 2005, freezing rain left up to half an inch of ice in northern central Indiana. As many as 150,000 households lost power, forcing many Hoosiers to seek refuge at emergency facilities.
  • January/February 2011: Central Indiana saw up to an inch of ice when a storm struck on January 31st and early February 2nd, 2011. The ice was accompanied by wind gusts above 50 mph, which caused tree damage, power outages, and major traffic delays.


The ice storm in 1991 was the worst in Indiana’s history. It caused a lot of damage and problems. Cities like Anderson, Lafayette, Frankfurt, and Kokomo were frozen over with up to three inches of ice. 209,000 homes were hit by widespread power outages, which caused damage worth between $80 million and $100 million. The damage caused a government disaster statement and showed how hard it is for the state to deal with extreme weather events.

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