Hazardous roads, dangerous cold continue hold on region

2014-01-07T23:45:00Z 2014-08-25T11:32:12Z Hazardous roads, dangerous cold continue hold on regionTimes Staff nwitimes.com
January 07, 2014 11:45 pm  • 

As Northwest Indiana entered its fourth day of treacherous weather, police continued to report issues on the road because of icy conditions and drifting snow. 

Indiana State Police said troopers responded to numerous slide-offs, spin-outs and crashes throughout the day. Police said Interstate 65 and the Indiana Toll Road were snow-covered and icy.

The Borman Expressway and Interstate 94 were less icy and slick, police said, but drivers were traveling too fast for conditions, hitting walls, barricades and each other's vehicles.

Authorities warned that conditions will likely remain difficult Wednesday morning, urging drivers to remain cautious.

"As expected in these subzero temperatures, Northwest Indiana roadways remain extremely icy and hazardous (Tuesday night)," the Indiana Department of Transportation reported late Tuesday. "Salt is less effective in these frigid conditions and the dangerous road conditions are not expected to improve until temperatures rise tomorrow afternoon, aiding INDOT crews who are spreading de-icing agents and using heavy equipment to break up the hard-pack snow and ice."

It said drivers should "plan ahead for an extremely slick and hazardous commute Wednesday morning, all across Northwest Indiana."

"Those who must travel are asked to be prepared for these conditions before leaving and adjust driving behaviors in order to arrive at destinations safely. Take it slow, leave plenty of room between vehicles, plan plenty of extra time for your drive, and give our plows plenty of room to work on the roads," the agency said.

Interstate 65 opened about 9 a.m. Tuesday after hazardous road conditions caused troopers to close for a second time an 80-mile stretch of the highway from Merrillville to Lafayette.

Police said they were also responding to multiple breakdowns, including stalled semis with gelled diesel fuel due to the extreme cold. 

Matt Deitchley, spokesman for INDOT, said INDOT vehicles broke down in the cold as well.

"INDOT and ISP have been working to push the message that, while these roads are open, we strongly discourage anyone from driving on them, or any other Northwest Indiana road," Deitchley said.

The extreme cold hampered the efforts to de-ice the roads, he said.

"We’re using other chemical de-icers and abrasives to improve road conditions, but it’s nearly impossible to break up that slick hard-pack snow and ice until the temperature rises tomorrow to give us some help," Deitchley said.

South Shore train service, which was canceled Monday, resumed Tuesday morning. Trains throughout the day had weather-related speed restrictions, which caused some delays. Officials continued to bus commuters between the South Bend and Michigan City stations because of problems at the South Bend station. 

The brutal temperatures also caused problems indoors. 

Lake County Commissioner Gerry Scheub, D-Crown Point, said the Lake County Government offices were open Tuesday, but crews were repairing a broken water pipe that flooded part of the administration building offices in Crown Point.

David Bauman, a trustee for the First United Methodist Church in Lowell, said the church was closed Tuesday because of a frozen 4-inch pipe. He said water started to flow through the pipes again by 4 p.m., which meant services would resume as scheduled for the rest of the week.

Schools still closed 

By early Tuesday evening, all Porter County schools and most in Lake County had decided to cancel school Wednesday.

Lake Central Superintendent Larry Veracco said he talked to town officials and some of the side roads were not yet clean. Also, some of the buses were having mechanical problems and required repair.

Lake Station Superintendent Dan DeHaven said it has taken us a long time to get the parking lots and sidewalks cleared.

"There are two busted coils at Bailey Elementary School, with two classrooms on the north side of the building are cold," he said. "Our guys are out and they are working on the schools. It's just been too much snow, too much drifting and too much cold weather that's causing problems. It's taking us longer than we planned to get our buildings ready to go."

MSD Boone Township also canceled classes for Wednesday.

"My biggest worry is the high school students driving to school. The buses will get to school safely," Superintendent George Letz said. "High school students have been in the house and not on the road. Hopefully, they will see right away, they have to drive 20 or 30 mph or they may slide into a ditch.”

For a full list of school closings, visit www.nwi.com/closings.

What's next? 

Though the wind chill warning expired for much of Northwest Indiana on Tuesday, the area is not in the clear. 

Richard Castro, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, said the area could see light snow Wednesday and Thursday as temperatures begin to gradually increase. He said communities south of the Kankakee River are expected to be most impacted by the snow.

"It will be another chilly day but not like what we've seen," he said.

According to the National Weather Service, temperatures will rise to the teens Wednesday. The low temperature is expected to 7 degrees with wind chills  below zero. 

By Thursday, temperatures will increase to a high of 27 degrees.

Many municipalities opened warming centers to assist those seeking shelter from the cold. A full list is available at www.nwi.com/digital/graphics.

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