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Mother Nature showed no mercy in the Region on Wednesday.

Power lines knocked down by high winds layed strewn across roadways. Tree limbs fell. And police responded to at least two semi rollovers along Interstate 65. 

Bricks fell from the upper half of the Drunken Swan, 707 Clay St., LaPorte, according to police, possibly caused by high winds. LaPorte Street Department employees put up barricades in the alley near the two-story brick building. 

High winds also knocked down a power line near Eagle Academy Christian School in Lansing, causing an outage at the school, police officials said. Squad cars with the Lansing Police Department could be seen blocking Glenwood-Lansing Road between Torrence and Oakwood avenues as officers redirected parents to use alternative routes to pick their children up from school. 

Greg Leeb, a severe weather spotter and active listener of police and fire radio feeds, said he was sitting in his bedroom in Hobart about 1:45 p.m. Wednesday when he "heard a big boom."

"I looked outside and saw the awning down, and then I saw the tree through the window," Leeb said. 

A tree limb about 30 feet in length fell onto his home, he said.

A wind advisory was in effect for much of Wednesday for Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Newton and Jasper counties, with localized wind gusts of up to 60 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

Fire crews responded about 4:30 p.m. to a home in the 3800 block of Euclid Avenue in East Chicago for a report of a structural collapse. East Chicago Fire Chief Anthony Serna said a family inside was evacuated but no injuries were reported.

The majority of the one-story brick structure remained intact, but one of the exterior walls had partially collapsed, Serna said. It's unclear if winds caused the collapse and the cause remains under investigation, Serna said. NIPSCO and the American Red Cross were notified, he said. 

Gusty winds also caused a semi-tractor trailer rollover along Interstate 65 near U.S. 24 in the Remington area Wednesday afternoon, according to the Indiana Department of Transportation. A second semi rollover accident forced the closure of southbound lanes near Ind. 2 in Lowell. 

Winds quickly diminished in the Region after the wind advisory expired at about 6 p.m., according to the NWS.

Thursday's forecast calls for a high near 44 degrees with wind gusts as high as 20 miles per hour. Friday is expected to be sunny, and colder with a high near 31 degrees and wind gusts of up to 25 miles per hour, according to the weather service. Saturday will be mostly cloudy with a high near 28. 

Power outages

More than 1,000 NIPSCO customers remained without power as of 7:30 p.m. due to high winds and downed power lines, according to the utility’s online outage map. Local outages throughout the day affected Dyer, East Chicago, Gary, Hammond, Highland, Hobart, Lake Station, Lowell, Merrillville, Michigan City, Portage and Valparaiso.

Utility spokeswoman Denise Rodriguez said the majority of customers should have power restored by 7 a.m. Thursday, but a small number may not see restoration until 11 a.m. 

"There were a lot of scattered outages. That seems to be the problem," Rodriguez said, noting at the peak of the outages Wednesday, an estimated 21,000 customers were without power.

In Hobart, attendees at the NWI Food Council's inaugural food expo were forced to prepare food by candlelight and flashlight after severe winds shut down the power at County Line Orchard. Power returned to the orchard shortly after noon. 

Services interrupted

All lanes on the Indiana Toll Road were temporarily shut down Wednesday while NIPSCO crews removed high voltage power lines that had fallen earlier Wednesday on the road and nearby South Shore commuter tracks, Indiana State Police for the Toll Road said.

Power lines fell between Kennedy Avenue and Indianapolis Boulevard, temporarily suspending the South Shore commuter rail line service. The Toll Road and South Shore tracks run adjacent to each other in that area. Trains were expected to return to a normal schedule for the rest of the day.

A number of passengers waited in the lobby of the East Chicago station during the power outage.

Kathy Murrie, of Edmonton, Canada, was visiting her sister-in-law in Crown Point. The two tried to catch the 10:25 a.m. train west to Chicago but were informed a power line was down.

The two said traffic was backed up at the adjacent intersection of Michigan Street and Indianapolis Boulevard. They also say passengers were informed shuttle buses were en route from Gary to take them to Hegewisch.

"It was going to be an adventure," Murrie said. "Stuff happens. It's a good thing we didn't have an appointment."

Times photographer Kale Wilk contributed to this report.


Public Safety Reporter

Sarah covers crime, federal courts and breaking news for The Times. She joined the paper in 2004 after graduating from Purdue University Calumet.

Northlake County Reporter

Lauren covers North Lake County government, breaking news, crime and environmental issues for The Times. She previously worked at The Herald-News in Joliet. She holds a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting.