Police, plows working snow-covered, slick roads

2014-02-05T19:00:00Z 2014-08-25T11:32:13Z Police, plows working snow-covered, slick roadsElvia Malagon and Lauri Harvey Keagle, Times Staff Writers nwitimes.com

Northwest Indiana residents woke up Wednesday morning to 2 to 8 inches of snow and major traffic delays on the interstates. 

The latest snowstorm caused treacherous driving conditions throughout Northwest Indiana. There were at least two serious crashes on Interstate 65 and Interstate 80/94.

The driver of a 2006 Volvo pulling a trailer loaded with bags of salt was seriously injured Wednesday after failing to slow down in time because of another crash on I-65 near mile marker 231 in Newton County, Indiana State Police said. 

The crash happened at 9:03 a.m. as Robert L. Brawley, 55, of West Frankfort, Ill., was driving a 2001 Freightliner and was slowing down because of a crash in front of him. According to a news release, the driver of the Volvo was driving behind Brawley and didn't stop in time.

The driver of the Volvo drove off the road and into a snow-covered left berm. According to the news release, the driver then overcorrected causing the trailer to jackknife and hit the rear of Brawley's trailer. 

The impact caused the front of the Volvo to be crushed between the Volvo's trailer and Brawley's semitruck, police said.

The crash led to a chain reaction involving two other semitrucks, police said.

The driver of the Volvo was extricated and taken to Franciscan St. Anthony Health in Crown Point with life-threatening injuries, police said. Officials did not release his name Wednesday because they had not contacted his next of kin.

The other drivers involved in the crash were not injured, police said. 

On I-80/94, westbound traffic was restricted for a majority of Wednesday after a semitruck jackknifed, causing 51,000 pounds of sheet metal to scatter across the interstate.

The crash happened at 10:15 a.m. near the Ripley Street exit as Juan M. Munoz, 39, of Hammond, was driving a 1998 semitruck, police said.

A trooper, who activated his emergency lights as he was on his way to a vehicle crash, said Munoz passed him on the interstate. Munoz then locked the brakes of the semitruck to avoid the crash ahead of him, police said.

The impact caused the semitruck to jackknife, hit the barrier wall and scatter his sheet metal across the road, police said.

Munoz was not injured. He was given a speeding citation, police said. 

In Schererville, Fire Chief Joseph Kruzan said blowing and drifting snow caused I-beams to give Wednesday inside of the Von Tobel Lumber & Hardware warehouse near U.S. 30 and Cline Avenue.

The roof settled on an interior structure in the warehouse, which stopped it from completely collapsing, Kruzan said.

The warehouse was evacuated following the incident. There were no injuries. Kruzan said the warehouse is considered uninhabitable until repairs are made.

The Von Tobel showroom in Schererville remains open because it's separate from the warehouse, Kruzan said.

This week's storm brings the season's snowfall total to 59.6 inches, according to the National Weather Service. The new total means this is the eighth snowiest winter since 1884.

Lake, Porter, Newton, Jasper and Cook counties remained under a hazardous weather outlook. Wind chills will dip to as low as 25 degrees below zero Thursday and Friday, according to the National Weather Service. 

LaPorte County was under a wind chill advisory and wind chills were expected to fall to 20 degrees below zero Thursday and Friday, according to the National Weather Service. 

Temperatures on Thursday are only expected to reach 5 degrees and the low is 5 degrees below zero. Friday's high temperature is 14 degrees with a low of 1 degree. 

The Indiana Department of Transportation said motorists should expect slick conditions and drifting snow Thursday morning. The department said crews will remain on the road trying to plow and salt interstates.

As of Wednesday night, Lake and Porter counties were under a travel advisory, according to the Indiana Department of Homeland Security. That advisory means motorists should use caution and routine travel may be restricted.

LaPorte, Newton and Jasper counties were under a travel watch Wednesday night and only essential travel was encouraged. 

Don't put away the shovels just yet, snow is expected to return to the area this weekend. 

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

Times staff writer Bill Dolan contributed to this report.

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