Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Monday storm smashed vehicles blocked roads

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Flattened Fiat: Gordon Smith's 1981 Fiat Spider was crushed by a fallen tree at Lincoln and Second St. during Monday's sudden, severe thunderstorm. Chesterton Street crews were on hand with heavy equipment to remove the fallen tree shortly after the storm. (Tribune photo by Margaret L. Willis)

Click For More photos: Storm Damage in Duneland

 

By KEVIN NEVERS

“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 midnight.

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 electrical appliances.

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.

NIPSCO

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.

 

Posted 6/25/2013