Dangerous wind chills prompt school closures, travel watches

2014-01-27T19:00:00Z 2014-02-05T21:58:19Z Dangerous wind chills prompt school closures, travel watchesTimes Staff nwitimes.com
January 27, 2014 7:00 pm  • 

State officials had a simple message for region residents Monday: Stay home.

Indiana State Police and the Indiana Department of Transportation urged motorists to avoid unnecessary travel, saying subzero temperatures, strong winds and dangerous wind chills were creating hazardous driving conditions.

Indiana State Police said Monday the Indiana Toll Road remained slick and hazardous in LaPorte and St. Joseph counties. Troopers said they don't expect road conditions to change until after Wednesday. 

Indiana State Police for the Lowell district said blowing and drifting snow could be a road hazard until Wednesday. There were also reports of black ice. 

Sgt. Ann Wojas, spokeswoman for Indiana State Police, said road conditions were improving Monday. However, motorists should still use caution on ramps and bridges. 

There weren't any serious crashes reported Monday, though slide-off crashes continued. Police said traffic volumes were low, citing school closures and advanced warnings as reasons.

Temperatures made roads icy and slick. Wojas said motorists who become stranded on the road should contact police immediately because of the frigid temperatures. 

According to the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Newton and Jasper counties remained under a travel watch Monday night. The watch said only essential travel, such as traveling to work, was recommended. 

Postal worker Jack Whitehead did not have much choice.

He can eye a snow-blanketed lawn and figure out whether it's worth trudging across as a short cut or if it's better to take the long way down the driveway, then walk on the street to the next house.

"If you can see any grass, then I cut across," he said.

The Highland man man has been clocking in for almost 12 years as a mail carrier. His Munster route Monday was one of the coldest.

"Brutal," is how he described it.

"Surviving," was his attitude.

He had another one-word answer for his attire: "Layers," he said.

The mail delivery usually takes 6 1/2 hours, but the winter weather adds up to another hour, Whitehead said.

Of the 425 stops he makes each day, Whitehead skipped a few because the snow is too deep and he can't reach the mailbox.

"If I feel it's a safety hazard, I don't have to deliver there," he said.

Northwest Indiana continues to be under a wind chill warning until 9 a.m. Wednesday. According to the National Weather Service, wind chills will dip to 25 to 40 degrees below zero Tuesday. The rest of the day is expected to feel wind chills of 15 to 25 degrees below zero. 

The wind chills will dip back to 30 degrees below zero Tuesday night into Wednesday morning. The National Weather Service warns there could be continued drifting snow. 

Residents in Gary felt wind gust of 58 miles per hour Sunday. According to the National Weather Service, Valparaiso recorded wind gusts of 53 miles per hour Sunday night.

More than a dozen institutions announced closures for Tuesday. Check www.nwi.com/closings for a full list of closures and delays.

Staff writer Vanessa Renderman contributed to this report.

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