Kimberly Weigand said she was visiting a neighbor at the Forest Oaks Mobile Home Park in Liberty Township when shortly before 1 a.m. Monday they heard high winds and a crash.
They stepped outside and discovered a portion of a tree had crashed down, knocking out the rear windows and causing other damage to her two vehicles.
"It’s horrible," she said while out later Monday morning surveying the damage.
"I don't know where my plate is," she said, pointing out the license plate was torn from one vehicle.
Elsewhere in the mobile home park a large tree was uprooted near the community pool and a section of a tree laid on top of a home.
Trees down power lines
Strong storms ripped through the Region overnight, damaging homes, downing tree limbs and leaving about 40,000 NIPSCO customers across northern Indiana without power as of 7 a.m. Monday. Some 3,000 were still in the dark as of 8:30 p.m. NIPSCO expected most customers to have power restored by midnight, with some repairs taking longer.
Affected communities in Northwest Indiana included Cedar Lake, Chesterton, Crown Point, Dyer, Gary, Griffith, Hammond, Hobart, LaPorte, Merrillville, Michigan City, Munster, Portage, St. John, Schererville, Valparaiso and Westville.
About 66 Kankakee Valley REMC members in Porter County's Jackson Township and Starke County also were without power Monday morning, spokeswoman Amanda Steeb said.
At the peak of outages, Kankakee Valley REMC had 2,200 members without power because of downed trees and power lines, broken poles and transmission interruptions to the substations. The cooperative had 25 broken utility poles in its system Monday morning, Steeb said.
In Merrillville, a power outage had caused traffic backups westbound at U.S. 30 and Randolph Street due to the traffic lights being out.
More than 10,000 customers were without power in Portage Monday morning, where the storms downed tree limbs and damaged homes.
David Sisak, of Portage, said he heard a big boom just before midnight Sunday and looked out of his home along Airport Road to see a section of his rear fence damaged.
He then discovered siding torn from his home, the lower section of the garage door pulled away and other damage to his house.
"We thought we got struck by lightning," Sisak said, while out surveying the damage Monday morning.
There was no damage inside the home, and he, his wife and six children were unharmed.
"The kids slept right through it," he said.
While a neighboring home appeared to have limited damage, Sisak's home was singled out by the storm.
"This is terrible," he said.
Sisak was waiting in word from his insurance company Monday.
The first step in the restoration process is damage assessment, which requires crews to find the sources of outages.
After a damage assessment is completed, crews begin by repairing large transmission and distribution lines and critical customers such as hospitals and emergency response operations.
"Repairs to other lines that serve smaller groups of customers can’t be made until the larger lines feeding electricity to those areas are repaired," NIPSCO said.
Residents should avoid any downed power lines, poles or other hazardous situations. Every downed wire should be treated as if it were live.
Residents also should avoid any trees that might be leaning against a power line.
NIPSCO customers experiencing an outage should text "out" to 444111 to report an outage or visit nipsco.com/outages.
Power outage at E-911 center
The Lake County 911 center was functioning normally Monday morning after an outage overnight, Executive Director Mark Swiderski said.
An electrical surge just after midnight during the storm disabled a critical piece of equipment, causing an outage in 911 telephone services and affecting the county's public radio system, which is used to communicate with first responders, he said.
The center took immediate steps to work with partners AT&T and INdigital to route 911 calls to backup systems within the 911 center, Swiderski said. All 911 telephone and nonemergency phone systems were restored Monday.
Dispatchers were unable to communicate with first responders for a short period of time during the outage, but backup systems functioned as designed. Portable radios were given to dispatchers to maintain contact with responders, Swiderski said.
All capabilities have since been restored, he said.
The 911 center has many systems designed to prevent a power outage, but an uninterruptible power supply system sustained a critical fault and failed, he said.
The center's electrical backup systems were overhauled and inspected within the past six months, and they are tested monthly, he said.
Electrical contractors were expected on-site Monday to determine the root cause of the failure, make repairs and develop plans to prevent future failures, he said.
Further investigation was needed to determine the full extent of systems and telephone calls affected by the outage, but the 911 center had received no reports of fatalities or injuries reported in conjunction with the outage or the storms, Swiderski said.
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