Chesterton Tribune



Sunday storm looked and sounded worse than it was

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For a few minutes there it sure looked like the end of the world. Skies of boiling black. Shrieking winds. Rain straight out of the Old Testament.

And then it turned out not to be the apocalypse at all but just a spring storm. And not even--as spring storms go in Duneland--that bad a one.

A few trees down. Some local flooding. But on the whole Duneland dodged a bullet, unlike Portage to the west, which appears to have been hit considerably harder.

Begin with outages. At 9:30 a.m. today, NIPSCO was reporting around 6,000 customers without power throughout its service territory but no actual outages in Chesterton. Hard to believe, but there it is.

In the Town of Porter, according to NIPSCO, 65 customers were in the dark; in Beverly Shores, 14; in Valparaiso, 445; and in Portage, fully 1,916.

“Since Sunday evening, NIPSCO crews have restored nearly 75 percent of the approximately 25,000 total electric customers affected by outages related to this storm,” NIPSCO said. “It will be late Monday afternoon before estimated restoration for areas with the most system damage (Gary, Hobart, and Portage) will be available.”

“To repair the extensive damage to its system from the storms, including broken poles, downed wire, and other system equipment, NIPSCO is also bringing in contracted crews on Monday to augment NIPSCO’s full-time field employees,” the company said.

Here in Chesterton, three roads were closed overnight due to downed trees, Street Commissioner John Schnadenberg told the Chesterton Tribune: Second Street in the area of Park Ave., which was re-opened to traffic around 8 a.m.; Third Street between West Porter Ave. and Lincoln Ave., which Schnadenberg expected to remain closed most of the day; and West Indiana Ave. in the area of 14th Street, where two large limbs got tangled in power lines. Meanwhile, in the 100 block of Wabash Ave. a downed tree hit the roof of a vehicle and crumpled it handily.

“It wasn’t as bad as we’ve had,” Schnadenberg said. “But there’s still some damage. Once folks get out and clear their yards, it’ll probably take all week to clean up from the storm.”

Porter Public Works Director Brenda Brueckheimer told the same story. “We fared pretty well,” she said. “Just a few trees down.”

One on Woodlawn Ave., to be exact; another on Sexton Ave. Here and there some broken limbs. “But nothing major,” Brueckheimer said. “We lucked out again.”

In unincorporated Porter County the Highway Department was similarly just shaking it off today. “There are some trees down,” Deputy Superintendent David James said. “Some flooding. Mostly in South Haven and up near Duneland. But the Duneland School Corporation ran with no problems this morning. It was just one of those screamers.”

The Chesterton Fire Departments, for its part, was nowhere near as busy as its been in some previous storms. Deputy Fire Chief John Jarka said that firefighters responded to a report of an electric line on fire in the 700 block of South Park Ave. They also were dispatched to a couple of accidents on I-94, where motorists hydroplaning in the downpour lost control and hit the median wall.

Flooding at Val’s

At the Chesterton wastewater treatment plant, a total of 1.69 inches of rain was recorded, although as Town Engineer Mark O’Dell noted, almost all of that amount fell in something like 20 or 30 minutes.

That much rain, that quickly, is virtually sure to overwhelm the treatment plant. And so it was on Sunday, when the plant was forced to bypass wastewater into the Little Calumet River from 8 to 11 p.m., O’Dell said. He did not yet know how much wastewater was bypassed.

That much rain, that quickly, also proved too much for the storm drains on Broadway. The result: Val’s Pizza once again was flooded, despite the expensive new lift station installed there last year to keep that alley--the lowest point in town--drained during heavy rain events.

The flood happened this way, O’Dell said. The lift station itself worked like a champ, pumping away the whole time. But the storm drains in the neighborhood rapidly proved unable to handle the flow. That runoff--from a four-block radius--did what water does and sought the lowest point, in the alley behind Val’s Pizza. And the torrent of runoff brought a bunch of debris and litter with it, which eventually clogged the pair of “beehive” storm drains located by the lift station.

O’Dell said that standpipes would be installed to prevent the same thing from happening again.

Miscellaneous Storm Reports

The vast majority of storm reports compiled by the National Weather Service (NWS) on Sunday came out of Lake County.

At 7:10 p.m., however, in Chesterton, NWS reported a 70-mile per hour gust of wind, just a couple of miles per hour shy of hurricane force.

At 7:30 p.m., at the intersection of Midway Drive and Devonshire Road in South Haven, knee-deep water was reported.

At 8:41 p.m., on Willowcreek Road south of U.S. Highway 6 in Portage, water up to the doors of a pickup truck was reported.



Posted 5/12/2014