Lake-effect snow hammers region

2014-01-21T21:30:00Z 2014-08-25T11:32:12Z Lake-effect snow hammers regionTimes Staff nwitimes.com
January 21, 2014 9:30 pm  • 

Lake-effect snow dumped up to 20 inches of snow in some parts of Northwest Indiana, clogging Lake County interstates for most of Tuesday. 

Tuesday's lake-effect snow band started to move into the area Monday night and lingered in Lake County longer than anticipated.

The impact of the snow was most heavily visible on Interstate 80/94 and portions of Interstate 65, where traffic was at a standstill for all of Tuesday, Indiana State Police said. The interstates remained open, but travel was nearly impossible in some areas because of how heavily traffic was backed up. 

Indiana State Police said there weren't any significant crashes because vehicles were moving at a crawl in the hardest-hit areas. White-out conditions and the rate of falling snow clogged the interstates. 

According to a news release from the Indiana Department of Transportation, crews were having a difficult time plowing because of all the traffic and the quick pace of the snowfall. 

Griffith reported 20 inches of snow. There were reports of 18 inches of snow in Gary and 16 inches in Hammond, according to the National Weather Service. Schererville had 10 inches of snow as of Tuesday afternoon. 

While portions of north Lake County were being hit hard with snow Tuesday, other areas were sunny and clear, including much of Crown Point. Some drivers reported clear roads and skies changing to white-out conditions within a mile or two in Munster.

But don't put away the snow shovels just yet.

Richard Castro, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said lighter snow is expected to move through the area Wednesday. There is also a possibility of more lake-effect snow for Porter County on Thursday.

"We don't get a break in this weather pattern at all," he said.

Wind chills were expected to drop to 20 to 30 degrees below zero Wednesday night into Thursday morning and again Thursday night into Friday, according to the National Weather Service. Meteorologists were tracking another possible system that could move into the area during the weekend, Castro said.  

By 5 p.m., Porter County was the only portion of Northwest Indiana that remained under a lake-effect snow advisory as the snow band moved east. The advisory was scheduled to last until midnight, and the county was expected to get 1 inch to 6 inches of snow. 

LaPorte County was expected to get 1 inch to 2 inches of snow Tuesday night. 

The Indiana Toll Road issued restrictions until 11 p.m. Tuesday for triple-long, double, high-profile and over-size permit vehicles.

Gary/Chicago International Airport's runways were closed Tuesday morning, and it was unclear when the runways would reopen.

Gary closed its offices Tuesday because of the snow. Gary public schools announced they were closing Wednesday, and the City Council meeting was postponed to 6 p.m. Jan. 28. 

The lake-effect snow also caused problems for Northwest Indiana students. 

Some parents in the Lake Central School Corp. and Lake Ridge Schools complained that students attended on one of the snowiest days of the year.

Lake Ridge Superintendent Sharon Johnson-Shirley, who dismissed school early because of the weather, said it's a difficult decision to make.

"I was in contact with other superintendents around 4 a.m. Tuesday morning," she said. "We were out of school because of the weather a couple of weeks ago, and we are trying to keep our students in school."

As the weather worsened and streets and school parking lots became snow-covered, school leaders made the decision to close school early, she said.

"It's not always a perfect decision, but it's always done in the best interest of students," Johnson-Shirley said.

She also said buses became stuck in different areas and there was a bus crash at Burr and Calhoun streets. That bus was taking elementary school children home, she said.

The crash was not serious, Lake County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Patti Van Til said. She said county police responded to numerous wrecks, slide-offs and calls for help from motorists.

Tom Taylor, Hanover Community School Corp. superintendent, said he initially called for a two-hour delay, then decided to call school off completely.

"We were in white-out conditions. Several roads were blocked off, and there were slide-offs. We have two built-in snow days in our calender, one in February and another in April. From a safety standpoint, we just didn't want to send our buses out and try to have our kids come to school," he said.

Parents in the Lake Central School Corp. contended the St. John and Schererville areas were hard hit with snow, and students never should have gone to school. They also complained that no one answered the telephone at the administration center.

For updates on school delays and closures, visit www.nwi.com/closings.

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