Sandy's winds bring power outages, minor damage to NWI

2012-10-30T23:15:00Z 2012-10-31T20:20:04Z Sandy's winds bring power outages, minor damage to NWILauri Harvey Keagle lauri.keagle@nwi.com, (219) 852-4311 nwitimes.com

Winds associated with Superstorm Sandy blew through the region Tuesday, downing power lines and making for difficult driving.

Waves on Lake Michigan rose to a record-tying 20.3 feet, and a flurry of weather advisories issued late Tuesday warned residents along the shoreline of possible flooding and more strong winds.

Weather officials issued a flood warning advising residents that waves up to 20 feet could cause flooding late Tuesday. A flood warning for LaPorte County continues through 1 p.m. today.

Strong winds up to 50 mph were expected along the shoreline in Illinois and Northwest Indiana, according to a hazardous weather outlook issued about 10 p.m. Tuesday. A wind advisory released Tuesday night also warned of possible property damage caused by high winds. The wind advisory was set to expire early today.

Gino Izzi, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Romeoville, Ill., said the winds and waves were acting as predicted.

A hazardous weather outlook predicted beach erosion along the Indiana shoreline through Monday due to high waves on the lake.

Josh Caudle, with the U.S. Coast Guard's Michigan City station, said Tuesday morning that winds at the station were registering between 30 and 40 mph and waves were steady at 23 to 25 feet.

Caudle said there were no reports of anyone in distress in Lake Michigan.

The winds appeared to cause scattered downed power lines and power outages throughout the region. At 8 a.m., NIPSCO reported nearly 6,000 customers without power, primarily in East Chicago and Michigan City.

By 11 a.m., the outages were down to 3,200, with the majority in the Chesterton area. By nightfall, less than 1,000 customers were without power.

Crews were continuing to restore electricity to region residents into the night.

Tom Stevens, spokesman for NIPSCO, said steady overnight winds caused downed lines and a few broken electrical poles overnight.

"We will be monitoring those areas throughout the day," Stevens said.

Amanda Steeb, spokeswoman for Kankakee Valley REMC, said a few scattered outages remained Tuesday morning after a night of outages.

High winds blew a sign off a Motel 6, at 3840 179th St. in Hammond, said Laura Rojo-Eddy, director of corporate communications for the motel chain.

"We're grateful no one was hurt," she said.

Crews were repairing the sign late Tuesday.

The gaming doors closed about 6 a.m. Tuesday, and food service stopped after lunch at Majestic Star Casino and Hotel, One Buffington Harbor Drive, Gary.

The waves on Lake Michigan were too high, rocking the boat up and down, General Manager Craig Ghelfi said.

The doors are expected to reopen about 8 a.m. today. Ghelfi said no one was hurt, and there was no flooding. The closure was a precaution, to prevent trips and falls by customers and employees.

Geof Benson, Town Council president for Beverly Shores, said Tuesday morning that the small lakefront community was doing "pretty well."

"The waves are getting up to a pretty good height," Benson said. "It's pretty wild."

Benson said the water was up to the stairs leading down to the beach at Broadway Street and Lake Front Drive.

Police in Michigan City were trying to keep people away from the lakefront because of the potential for danger from 20-foot waves.

Barricades were placed Monday afternoon at the entrance to Washington Park, but some people were still venturing in on foot Tuesday to take pictures or just witness the waves.

Some of those people were asked by volunteers representing the city to leave the park.

"We're restricting access to that," said Michigan City Police Chief Mark Swistek, who revealed the barricades would probably remain in place until this morning.

LaPorte County Sheriff Mike Mollenhauer said he has never seen the lake as rough as it was Tuesday.

"It looks like an ocean. I couldn't believe my eyes," Mollenhauer said.

Bruce Rowe, spokesman for the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, said Tuesday morning there were no reports of any damage on the National Park Service property.

Times staff writer Lindsay Machak, Times correspondent Stan Maddux and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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