Thousands of homes and businesses were without power Friday after two severe thunderstorms passed through the area, bringing needed rain and relief from the heat.
Jasper, Lake, LaPorte, Newton, Porter, Cook and Will counties were among those hit by the storm, which featured high winds, hail and frequent lightning.
Valparaiso Police Department Sgt. Mike Grennes said a line of storms that passed through after noon produced heavy winds that toppled a number of trees throughout the downtown area and near Benjamin Franklin Middle School.
At the corner of Chicago and Wayne streets, a woman was trapped in her car when a large tree fell on top of her. Grennes said crews with the Valparaiso Fire Department had to remove the woman from the smashed vehicle. She suffered minor injuries, he said.
Thor Benson, who lives on the corner, said he and his daughter witnessed the branch fall on the car.
"We were looking out the window, and snap, the branch fell on the car," Benson said.
He said firefighters and street department workers wrapped chains around the branch and used a payloader to pull it off the car. Firefighters used extrication equipment to pry open the door to get her and her small dog out of the vehicle.
Benson said it's the second large branch to fall on a car in that area in the past two years.
Traffic signals also were out along LaPorte Avenue, creating traffic jams with shoppers from the adjacent strip malls.
NIPSCO public affairs manager Stephanie Vandiver said at one point 23,777 customers were without power as a result of the earlier storm. Crown Point, Michigan City and Knox were among the hardest-hit areas, Vandiver said. All NIPSCO crews were out and an additional 80 crews were called in to help restore power. By 11 p.m., the number of customers still without power was about 16,900.
NIPSCO spokesman Nick Meyer said crews had finished restoring service to the approximately 4,500 customers systemwide who lost power after Thursday evening's storm when Friday's first storm blew through.
“Then this storm rolled through pretty quickly,” Meyer said
The NIPSCO outage center, including a link to the interactive outage map, is available online at www.nipsco.com/en/Stay-Safe/outage-center.aspx.
Kankakee Valley REMC, which provides power in portion of of Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Pulaski and Starke counties, said its customers were experiencing "systemwide outages due to the recent storms," on a statement on the utility's Web site.
"Kankakee Valley REMC crews have been dispatched to the affected areas," the online statement reads. "We appreciate everyone's patience as our crews work to restore power."