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Thousands evacuate indoors as storm hammers Pierogi Fest; minor damage reported

Thousands evacuate indoors as storm hammers Pierogi Fest; minor damage reported

Storm pierogi

Attendees to the Pierogi Fest were briefly evacuated Saturday after a storm swept through. The festivities resumed after about half an hour.

WHITING — High winds, pouring rain and lighting roared through Whiting's Pierogi Fest, causing thousands of attendees to be evacuated indoors. 

This was the first time the entire fest had an evacuation, said Pierogi Fest chairman and co-founder Tom Dabertin.

He said the meteorology team from CBS 2 alerted organizers early on that a strong storm is on its way, prompting them to enact the evacuation. 

Around 5:30 p.m. thousands were packed into the Whiting High School gym and various businesses to take shelter until the storm passed at 5:52 p.m. 

Join Tristan DeFord, Jami Rieck, and Nancy Zakutanksky on a shift working for Superior Ambulance in Merrillville.

"The Dollar Tree (across from the Chamber of Commerce) welcomed everyone inside," Dabertin said. "I want to give a special thanks and recognition to Dollar Tree Manager Rob Dennis-Kulak. He was out there inviting people in the building to take shelter."

Dabertin said many businesses opened their doors to attendees, however he noted Family Dollar on 119th Street did not allow festgoers inside during the storm. 

A few booths closed for water damage and various signs were blown about. Some electrical equipment was damaged but it caused no major impacts. 

He said the organizers have safety plans in place for severe weather and everyone was able to safely resume festivities shortly after the storm passed. The festival was reopened in full force Saturday evening and the event is set to carry on as scheduled. 

"Everything is back in full swing," Dabertin said. 


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Night Crime/Breaking News Reporter

Anna Ortiz is the breaking news/crime reporter for The Times, covering crime, politics, courts and investigative news. She is a graduate of Ball State University with a major in journalism and minor in anthropology. 219-933-4194,

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