Potholes flattening tires as rain, warmer temps move through region

2014-02-20T13:52:00Z 2014-02-21T07:33:07Z Potholes flattening tires as rain, warmer temps move through regionLauri Harvey Keagle lauri.keagle@nwi.com, (219) 852-4311 nwitimes.com

Though Northwest Indiana motorists got a break Thursday from snow, many spent the day driving around potholes, in dense fog and high standing water. 

Lake County Sheriff's Police dispatchers said officers responded to multiple reports of vehicles with flat tires on Cline Avenue north of the Borman Expressway. Drivers on Cline Avenue reported traffic crawling Thursday morning northbound because of numerous disabled vehicles on the road.

Motorists traveling on U.S. 30 just east of U.S. 41 in Schererville were slowing to pass through the high standing water under the viaduct there Thursday morning. The area is prone to flooding.

Dyer police Cmdr. Joe Cinko said officials temporarily closed an eastbound lane of U.S. 30 near Meyer's Castle on Thursday night because of a separation between a bridge and road that was causing problems for drivers. Dyer police said crews repaired the road Thursday night and all lanes were reopened. 

Indiana State Police said there were temporarily lane closures Thursday on Interstate 94 in Porter County because crews from the Indiana Department of Transportation were filling potholes.

Matt Deitchley, spokesman for the Indiana Department of Transportation, said potholes can form quickly because of freezing and thawing temperatures. He said crews have continued to work extra hours to patch the potholes across Northwest Indiana. 

Deitchley said a pothole reporting system is in place for drivers and INDOT crews, "so when we see an area that develops, we can head out there as quickly as possible."

"Problem is, potholes can form very quickly and some of them form and become severe over the course of a single overnight," Deitchley said. "Therefore it’s not uncommon for drivers to come across a pothole before we see it has developed."

Jill Stochel, assistant superintendent of the Lake County Highway Department, said crews placed "high water" signs Thursday on county roads to warn of troubled spots.

"We're out checking all the drains and pushing back the snow in some areas," Stochel said.

Lake County crews also were working to repair potholes, removing the standing water from them and patching them, she said.

The thunderstorms Thursday morning are believed to be to blame for an attic fire sparked by lightning in Winfield, officials there said.

Lakes of the Four Seasons Volunteer Fire Force Chief Jeremy Campbell said crews were called just after 7 a.m. to a home in the 700 block of East 106th Avenue for a report by a homeowner of a smell of smoke after hearing a loud crack.

LOFS and Crown Point firefighters tracked down the fire in the attic above a bedroom and extinguished it quickly, Campbell said. Crews had to pull down some of the ceiling in the bedroom to be certain the fire did not spread, he said.

No one was injured in the fire and the home received minimal damage, Campbell said. The investigation into the cause of the fire is ongoing, Campbell said, but preliminary reports indicate it was caused by a lightning strike.

Northwest Indiana was expected to remain under a flood warning and flood advisory until Friday morning, according to the National Weather Service. 

The Kankakee River at Shelby in Lake and Newton counties was under a flood warning because of expected heavy rain, melting snow and ice jams. As of 5:45 p.m. Thursday, the Kankakee River's water level was at 8.34 feet, according to the National Weather Service. Flood state is 9 feet. 

The river was expected to reach levels up to 9.7 feet by next week. 

At 10 feet, flooding impacts local roads and Wildwood Estates and Sumava Resorts experience some flooding.

The Little Calumet River in Munster was under a flood advisory until Friday evening. As of 6 p.m., the river was at 8.94 feet, according to the National Weather Service. Flood stage is 12 feet. The river was expected to rise to 11.7 feet by Friday.

ComEd was bracing for the impacts of Thursday night's heavy rain and strong wind gusts. Customers who see a downed power line were asked to call (800) 334-7661. 

The company also advised customers to stay away from flooded basements unless residents are sure all electricity has been turned off, according to a news release. 

Cold air was expected to move through the area overnight, which could freeze standing water and create road problems, according to the National Weather Service. 

Temperatures were expected to dip to as low as 23 degrees Friday. The expected high temperature is 36 degrees. The area will continue to get strong wind gusts of up to 45 mph Friday. 

As of noon, the region had received about 1 inch of rain. Richard Castro, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, said Valparaiso had accumulated 1.19 inches of rain by 6 p.m. Portage reported less than an inch of rain by 5 p.m. 

Lake County Surveyor Bill Emerson Jr. said his office had no reports of flooding Thursday morning. Emerson said his crews were closely monitoring ditches and waterways.

"Hopefully it stays this way," Emerson said.

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago lowered waterways Thursday morning to increase capacity for water flowing into the system.

"Our Deep Tunnel is in service and has already received flow," Allison Fore, spokeswoman for the MWRD, said Thursday morning.

The entire tunnel system can hold up to 2.3 billion gallons of water.

"We encourage the public to minimize their use of water to reduce the amount of water flowing into the sewer system during this rain event," Fore said. "Postponing high water consumption activities such as bathing or showering, running dishwashers or washing clothes will help provide maximum capacity in the local and intercepting sewer systems."

Times staff writer Elvia Malagon contributed to this report. 

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