“I guess we can’t say we dodged the bullet this time.”
That was Chesterton Street Commissioner John Schnadenberg’s assessment of
Monday evening’s storm, after high winds blew through Duneland around supper
time, snapping trees, downing wires, and leaving virtually every street in
the old part of town littered with debris.
At 8 a.m. today 15th Street at Lincoln Ave. was still closed, as crews were
preparing to remove a very large tree which had toppled across the roadway.
Waverly Road just north of Wabash Ave. also remained closed due to power
lines in the roadway.
Elsewhere trees fell on at least three vehicles: at Lincoln Ave. and Second
Street, at West Porter Ave. and 14th Street, and at Indian Boundary Road and
Honeyshade Drive in Westchester Township. No injuries here were reported,
although three persons were seriously hurt in a two-vehicle accident in
Liberty Township (see accompanying story).
Thousands in Duneland were without power, and at the peak of the storm
87,000 NIPSCO customers were deprived of juice. Those numbers had been
whittled down to 305 in Chesterton, 40 in Beverly Shores, and a
territory-wide total of 36,335 by 8 a.m. today. Most people to whom the
Chesterton Tribune spoke today were back on the grid sometime after
The National Weather Service (NWS) was blaming the damage on a “derecho,” a
“long-lived complex of wind-producing storms” some 250 miles across packing
a consistent wind speed in excess of 58 miles per hour.
The storm itself was very fast moving and appeared to form with surprising
speed. “I saw it coming on the radar at 6 p.m.,” Schnadenberg said, only
about 30 minutes before it swept into Duneland. “It was a real fast mover.”
The highest wind gust reported by the NWS here: 79 miles per hour--hurricane
strength--south-southwest of Burns Harbor.
“The biggest problem really was the way high winds twisted the trees,”
Schnadenberg said. “We had more trees split than actually break off.”
Though it was difficult to tell at the time--because the winds were blowing
the rain nearly horizontal--there wasn’t much in the way of rainfall.
Schnadenberg reported no local flooding--including the alley behind Val’s
Pizzas at Broadway and 11th Street--while Interim Utility Superintendent
Mark O’Dell said that the wastewater treatment was never in danger of
bypassing. On the other hand, O’Dell added, crews were in the field until 2
a.m. pumping down lift stations during the blackout. As of early this
morning, no basement backups had been reported.
The Chesterton Fire Department responded to 20 storm-related calls: downed
wires, arcing lines, a false alarm in a commercial building caused by the
power outage. There was one lightning strike, Fire Chief Mike Orlich said,
to the chimney of a house in the 1400 block of Tremont Road in Westchester
Township. The strike caused no fire but it did travel into the house,
shattering the glass plate covering the fireplace and damaging some
In the Town of Porter all roads were open this morning and most folks had
juice by 12:30 a.m., Public Works Director Brenda Brueckheimer said. A few
trees did fall across roadways but they were removed fairly quickly.
Across unincorporated Porter County the areas north of U.S. Highway 30 were
hit the hardest, with 25 to 30 trees down, Deputy Highway Superintendent
David James said. One road was still closed at 8 a.m.: C.R. 750W just south
of U.S. 30, after a tree snagged power and telephone lines. Crews were
waiting for utility crews to arrive on scene. “We can’t touch it until
NIPSCO gets there.”
For the Chesterton Street Department the challenge today was identifying
hazard trees crippled during the storm. “We have a lot of broken limbs hung
up in the trees,” Schnadenberg said. “And every street in the older areas of
town has branches in it. We’re going to go street-by-street but today we’re
working on eliminating the hazard trees.”
“We’re anticipating about a two-week cleanup right now,” Schnadenberg added.
The Northern Indiana Public Service Company attributed most of Monday
evening’s outages to broken utility poles, downed wires, and “other related
storm damage as a result of heavy wind and tree damage.”
This morning the remaining outages were mostly clustered in Gary, Hammond,
Munster, Highland, and Merrillville, with some significant ones in
Valparaiso, Michigan City, and LaPorte.
At 8 a.m. total a total of 2,014 customers in Valparaiso remained in the
dark, NIPSCO was reporting.