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Nicholas Emry Leonard dies

Nicholas Emry Leonard, of Wanatah, passed away Saturday evening, August 15, 2009 at Riley Hospital for Children, Indianapolis. He was 4 years old.

He was born February 26, 2005 in Valparaiso, the son of David and Marsha Leonard, of Wanatah.

He is also survived by siblings, Alecia, David and Zachary; paternal grandmother, Linda Leonard, of North Judson; maternal grandparents, Caroline and Tim Meyer, of Westville; aunts, Michelle (Troy) Fuller, of Battle Creek, Mich. and Megan (Jason) Myers, of Hobart and uncles, Matt Meyer, of Valparaiso, Tony Leonard and Tommy Leonard, both of North Judson.

Nicholas was a member of St. Francis Episcopal Church, Chesterton and he attended Little Learners Pre-school in LaPorte.

Funeral services, Fr. Tony Clavier officiating, will be at 11 a.m. at St. Francis Episcopal Church, 237 E 1200N, Chesterton. Interment will follow at Chesterton Cemetery.

The family will receive friends from 2-6 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 23 at White-Love Funeral Home, 525 S. 2nd Street, Chesterton.

Memorials may be given to One By One Civic Group, P.O. Box 2102 Valparaiso, IN 46384.

For more information, please call White-Love Funeral Home, 926-1309.

 

Nada Bekavac, 81, dies

Nada Bekavac, age 81, of Chesterton, passed away Tuesday, August 18, 2009 in Lafayette, Ind.

She was born on November 4, 1927 in Camden, Pa. the daughter of George and Lavada (Hamilton) Doyle, both of whom preceded her in death.

On July 2, 1956 in Winchester, Va. she married Stephen G. Bekavac, who preceded her in death January 26, 2005.

She is survived by a son, Gregory (Susan) Bekavac of Westville, Ind.; a daughter, Donna Ware of Merritt Island, Fla.; twin sister, Nedra Petrick of Penn Hills, Pa.; granddaughters, Allison, Rosalee and Katie; and many nieces, nephews, close friends and bingo buddies.

Nada was an area resident since 1961. She was a member of Chesterton First United Methodist Church and retired from Duneland School Corporation where she worked as a Secretary at Yost School. She was a member of the Chesterton American Legion, and was the Past Senior Regent at the Chesterton Women of the Moose. She was a member of the Uno Card Club, loved to play bingo, president of the Welcome Wagon, and worked as a volunteer for the Duneland Resale Shop.

Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Saturday, August 22 at Edmonds & Evans Funeral Home, 517 Broadway, Chesterton. Interment will follow at Graceland Cemetery, Valparaiso.

Visitation will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, August 21 at Edmonds & Evans Funeral Home.

Memorials may be made to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, 1332 N. Halstead St. Suite 201, Chicago, IL 60642; The Duneland Resale Shop, 534 Broadway, Chesterton, IN 46304; or Mooseheart, 155 S. International Dr., Mooseheart, IL 60539-1100.

www.EE-FH.com

Porter seeks state study of Wagner / U.S. 20 safety

By PAULENE POPARAD

The Porter Metropolitan Police Commission agreed Tuesday to ask state highway officials to do a traffic study of the U.S. 20 intersection at Wagner Road, which many believe to be dangerous.

The commission also recommended that the Town Council make the same request of the Indiana Department of Transportation.

Ten-year-old Trey Bonnema last month asked the Police Commission to help lobby for a stop light at U.S. 20 and Wagner Road and presented 271 signatures on petitions in support. Tuesday he presented 60 more signatures and said additional petitions still are being circulated.

Police chief James Spanier said the Police Department sees both pros and cons about installing a stop light; currently Wagner Road traffic has an overhead flashing red light and traffic on U.S. 20 has a yellow light. Spanier added that since he’s not a professional at traffic analysis, the commission could defer to INDOT although their past traffic studies at U.S. 20 and Waverly Road did not appear to take everything into account.

It was recollected that U.S. 20 and Wagner Road did have a stop light at one time years ago, likely prior to the opening of Interstate 94, but the number of accidents there prompted the light to be removed.

Town Council liaison Jon Granat said safety improvements short of a stop light like prominent warning signs with roadside flashers may be the answer. Spanier said the town is putting up new oversize speed limit signs along U.S. 20, which also may help.

In other business, the chief said activity statistics show July was typical for summer. “We’re real, real busy. Total calls is up quite a bit.” In all 581 calls were logged resulting in six felony and 21 misdemeanor arrests. Traffic stops numbered 74 resulting in 38 citations, 37 written warnings and 27 verbal warnings. Arrests included two each driving while suspended/prior and operating while intoxicated as well as one each leaving the scene and OWI/refusal.

Other calls were 11 thefts; five warrant service; four criminal mischief; three fraud; two each intimidation, minor consumption, property damage, public intoxication and trespass; and one each possession of a controlled substance, battery, battery to a police officer, burglary, false reporting of a crime, harassment, strangulation, theft from vehicle and vandalism.

There were 14 animal calls, and seven residential and three business alarms. Porter Police assisted at seven lockouts, one lost license plate and did six VIN checks. Assists to other departments numbered 105 and to other jurisdictions, three. Thirty-nine assists were made to citizens. Other reports dealt with three civil matters; two each commitment, found property, off-duty assist and runaway; and one each death investigation, disturbance, general information, suspicious circumstance, town incident and welfare check. Other calls totalled 157.

Of 70 calls to emergency 911, 13 were misdials. Member Bill Donley was absent Tuesday.

 

Porter BZA meets, approves variance then power goes out

By PAULENE POPARAD

Shortly after 7:30 p.m. Wednesday the lights flickered several times, then the power went out at the Porter town hall.

The Plan Commission, which was about to start, was canceled and members left, having no idea of the devastation that had occurred just a short distance away.

A scheduled public hearing on an update to the Porter subdivision control ordinance was postponed until Sept. 16.

The town’s Board of Zoning Appeals did meet at 7 p.m., at one point the sky so black outside it appeared to be midnight.

The BZA approved a variance for Paul and Kira Geiss of 2935 Market St. at Porter Beach to build a 25-foot by 10-foot room addition on a non-conforming lot. Vote was 4-1 with member Elka Nelson opposed.

The board majority granted the variance having found the need for one arises from practical difficulty with the property. After the meeting BZA president Henry Huyser said the 0.17-acre size of the parcel was the reason.

Paul Geiss said the addition will not block any view or hinder sight lines or air flow, and won’t violate any setbacks. The couple said they’re cramped for storage space and need more bedrooms because some in the existing home are so small they can’t comfortably be used as such.

Paul Geiss also said the Porter County Health Department determined he does not need to expand the existing septic system because of the addition.

During a public hearing on the petition, no one commented.

Cahnman fence advances

On a separate matter the BZA unanimously set Sept. 16 as a public hearing for Ray Cahnman’s application for a variance to replace a deteriorated 6 foot-tall wooden fence with a new one in generally the same location at 3030 Dearborn St.

Cahnman’s attorney, Bob Welsh, said his client would prefer to repair the existing 6-foot fence on the parcel’s east boundary but town building commissioner Art Elwood said it isn’t salvagable. Prior to next month’s hearing town planner Jim Mandon asked for a map of where the existing fence is and where the new one would go.

Welsh said the fence won’t affect anyone who parks on Dearborn Street or is a beneficiary of the Dearborn Street parking association.

“People are parking on Dearborn Street? You’re making it sound like an association,” said Porter director of engineering Matt Keiser.

“It is,” replied Welsh, describing an association that permits parking on lots and in the street right-of-way. “I’m not suggesting anything right or wrong about that.”

Mandon said there would be no purpose for the fence request if it is to screen the parking lot because no license to his knowledge exists to park on Porter right-of-way, especially not just certain members of the public.

Nelson, a Porter Beach resident, said the arrangement has been in place since the 1950s, its members pay for road maintenance, and the parking lot is not the subject of Cahnman’s variance request.

Special meeting set

Also Wednesday, the Porter Beach Overlay Committee, of which Nelson is a member, met to hammer out final details regarding new zoning regulations that would apply to future development at Porter Beach in addition to the town’s regular zoning ordinance.

A special meeting for Sept. 1 at 5 p.m. at the town hall was set to review changes to the overlay draft. The Plan Commission eventually will conduct a public hearing, then make a recommendation to the Town Council for a final vote.

Overlay Committee member Keiser suggested the special meeting to get the project back on track. “I thought we were a lot farther along last month. I’m not real happy right now.” The project has dragged on and off for several years but Keiser, newly appointed, has said this time he intends to deliver a final draft.

Generating renewed discussion was fencing, views, minimum lot size, dog runs and maximum lot coverage.

It was noted fences at Porter Beach generally can allow sand to build up on one side creating voids on the other, and that fences can channel runoff; the wrong fencing also can prevent desirable beach-sand renourishment from occuring, and fencing-in yards does not preserve a feeling of open space.

Committee member Jamie Hogan said the overlay needs to address the few residents who put in septic systems about 15 years ago but never built houses on those lots. “For me to be supportive of this (overlay) in the end, I need to know these people with four lots who put in septics are protected.”

Committee member Jerry Sadock said, although it doesn’t seem likely now, some day Porter Beach could be served by sanitary sewers.

 

Trail of damage: All along Pinney’s Court, north of Woodlawn Ave. and west of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, trees were snapped, houses were damaged and power lines were downed by Wednesday’s storm. At the end of the street, John and Brenda Stewart had their door blocked by fallen trees and heard the fury of the storm. “It sounded like a freight train,” Brenda said. Trees were downed throughout the neighborhood, crashing into homes and blocking driveways and the road.

(Tribune photos by Margaret L. Willis)

 

Roofs torn off: Among the dozens of buildings around town seriously damaged in last night's sudden storm were the Duneland Resale Shop (above) and the old Pioneer Lumber building (most recently housing the Swing Club). The Resale Shop’s roof was partially torn off. Here Craig Davis and Jim Thomas of Orbesen Construction of Gary, work to evaluate and cover the damaged roof of the Resale Shop. Just across the railroad tracks to the northeast, the old Pioneer Lumber building (below) looks like nothing so much as a sardine can torn open along one side. (Tribune photos by Margaret L. Willis and Alexandra Newman)

 

Windows blown out: Multiple homes and vehicles were damaged by the wind or by falling trees along North Third St. At the Blunk residence, the door was pushed open by the wind, a window blown out of the north side of the house and the windows of the vehicles parked outside were all damaged. As well, a number of trees and tree limbs were downed and a pick-up truck moved by the wind. Here one can see the window blasted out of the pick up truck and a large tree resting on the house. (Tribune photo by Margaret L. Willis)

 

Removing downed trees: The single most common activity this morning around town was working to saw apart downed trees. Here Eric Melton of South Park Acres and Paul Ferry, of Sunshine Tree Service of Valparaiso, work to remove a downed tree from atop Eric's car and his father's truck, both parked in the driveway and covered with downed trees. (Tribune photo by Margaret L. Willis)

 

Tree, wires downed by wind: Dozens of trees all over town were damaged or downed during Wednesday’s storm. Here a large old tree along Porter Ave. took down the fencing along with it at the ball field at Porter Ave. and 8th St. Top photo: Trees brought power lines down along with them on 8th St. near the Chesterton Middle School. (Tribune photos by Margaret L. Willis)

 

Roof off Goldsborough Gym: The storm that roared through Chesterton Wednesday night took the roof of Goldsborough Gym at Chesterton Middle School with it. The wind tore a section of the roof off and, though the storm was moving in a northeasterly direction, dumped a section of roof on the west side of the gym atop a neighbor's car on 8th St. (at right) Additionally, the roof membrane itself was ripped off, leaving a portion of the roof open to the sky (see photo on front page) and much of the roof leaking (above.) Mark McKibben, Director of Special Services for the Duneland Schools said today that the gym could likely be saved, “if it stops raining,” which it finally did this morning around 9 a.m. A crew from Berglund Construction of Chesterton worked overnight to cover the open roof and protect the old wooden gym floor.

(Tribune photos by

Margaret L. Willis)

 

Roof torn off Brown St. apartments: The storm Wednesday evening lifted the roof right off the apartment complex on Brown St. The roof came off in huge sections, much of which was deposited directly in the street in front of the building. Amazingly, though people were in the building and on the street at the time, no one was hurt. Here a view of the apartment building this morning, with the apartment units open to the sky and parts of the roof in the foreground. Jim Moranto, of Brown Court, and Jacob Smith, of the Brown St. apartments, view a section of roof that landed on Moranto's truck. What looks like a tarp over the truck is part of the apartment building's roof membrane. Smith rode out the storm in a kitchen closet, while Moranto, caught outdoors, lay flat on the ground near the apartment building. (Tribune photos by Alexandra Newman and Margaret L.Willis)

Eyewitness: This snapshot of the funnel cloud moving over Chesterton was taken just as the storm hit. The view is looking westward down Indian Boundary Rd. (Photo by Ian Covert, CHS student)

View to the sky: A section of Goldsborough Gym was opened to the sky by last night’s sudden storm. A crew from Berglund Construction of Chesterton worked overnight to cover the open roof and protect the old wooden gym floor. (Tribune photo by Margaret L. Willis)

Blown away: In Pinney’s Court, just north of Woolawn Ave., Cynthia Kraft said her daughter left her spot at the computer just before a tree crashed into the front of the house at 601 Pinney’s Court. The home’s mailbox was spirited away by the wind. (Tribune photo by

 

Residents awake to face storm damage cleanup

By ALEXANDRA NEWMAN

Yesterday afternoon Judy and Jim Ross completed window decorations at Duneland Resale in anticipation of the upcoming Wizard of Oz Festival in Chesterton. The window decoration depicts a tornado along with the main characters, who were taken via tornado from Kansas to the Land of Oz.

Duneland Resale Shop was one of the buildings damaged in what many believe this morning was a tornado - at least until an official weather report is issued.

Across the railroad tracks, the roof of the former Pioneer Lumber building, now Accucast, had sustained damage. Workers were out this morning sweeping debris from the parking lot at Edmonds & Evans Funeral Home across the street from the Resale Shop.

Rosses live a block south from CMS, where they were when the storm hit.

“Only the top of one of our trees was damaged,” Judy Ross said this morning as she and Jim walked around Chesterton Middle School assessing damage there.

“It was an erie feeling,” Jim added.

Sue Franzen, who lives across from CMS, said she was unaware of a tornado until she went outside to see why all the traffic was driving by. She said one man identifying himself as a “storm-chaser” stopped to ask if anyone was hurt.

“That’s when I found out about it,” Franzen said.

Tom Smith, who lives near Dogwood Park said this morning that he went yesterday evening to Wabash and Eighth Street to pick up his grandson and couldn’t get over the traffic created by sightseers.

“The storm reminded me of the one in 1948 that went through Porter and damaged Hageman School” (where Hageman Library now stands).

Many crews were working on clean-up this morning at CMS, where windows were blown out and gutters were flown into trees. One gutter was blown into a tree and remained in the tree under which a vehicle had been damaged by yet another piece of storm debris.

The 4th Street Theater was damaged and a massive tree was downed at the corner of 4th Street and Wabash. This morning crews were working to clear the road.

Meanwhile, down on Brown Ave. and Third Street, where significant damage occurred, Chris Walkons, of Grand Rapids Mich., who works for the National Lakeshore, said he heard a loud noise and went outside in the driveway at 346 Brown Court.

“I saw cyclic motion and ran inside to the bathroom for shelter,” he said this morning as he and others were assessing damage to the neighborhood.

“I was surprised at the damage, it wasn’t that loud,” he continued. “Afterwards there was a dead calm,” he said.

Houses in the subdivision were hit by trees, the roof from the apartment at the corner of Third St. and Brown Ave. was cleaned off the roadway, swept into the front yards of the homes. Residents from the apartment could be seen clearing belongings out of their apartments, headed for shelter with friends and families.

“A tree fell on the roof of my bedroom area,” said Jean Hayes, who added that despite the fast action of the town covering her roof with tarp last night, she spent the night with Pat Scott who lives on Brown Court.

“You know, the air pressure didn’t feel right, before it hit,” Walkons said as they discussed the big event.

“When it was over, neighbors all came out to check on one another, and one of our neighbors who works for NIPSCO went around and turned off our gas as a precaution,” Hayes said.

“I’m thrilled no one was hurt,” Hayes said.

One block south on Third and Michigan, huge trees were uprooted surrounding two corner homes. Some branches hung precariously, ready to fall at anytime.

Brian Babcock, who lives on 19th street arrived with a saw in his hand as this photographer was taking photos of the Holdren’s home on the corner.

“My wife was on the phone talking to Bill’s wife, when it hit,” he said. We came over last night, but are back this morning with coffee and to help,” Babcock said.

Construction workers canvassed the town seeking work, helping residents clean up.

Around 8 a.m. rain was pretty heavy as vehicles were bumper to bumper along Calumet Road. Several trees were downed, one large one in particular that required police to direct traffic as people headed for work. The rain subsided and more people with cameras ventured out and about as did this reporter to see the damage and talk to those affected by the storm.

Rick Hokanson, who now lives in Chestnut Hills, shared his experience of the tornado that hit Porter in 1948. He was about 5 years old and he and his sister were having dinner in the kitchen with their mom.

“My sister had to go potty, so Mom took her out of her high chair and the color outside changed to an eerie yellowish color - the same color as last night - I got scared and ran to Mom. Just as I left the room, the kitchen wall collapsed and then the dining room wall as we headed for the basement.

“My cousins were playing baseball in Hawthorne Park and they were told to hit the dug out. Dick Hokanson tried to get in our house. It took four attempts because the winds were blowing him back, but he made it.

“Dad was on his way home from Porter Grocery Store with ketchup and bread. He was at the corner by Hageman School when it hit, he grabbed the fence to keep from blowing away and he made it home with the ketchup and bread,” Hokanson said with a chuckle.

Last night Hokanson saw the eerie yellow color and told his wife “we’re in for it.” They headed for the basement, but it was all over before they even got to the basement.

Hokanson went out on 11th Street to help direct traffic because lines were down.

“That color is something you don’t forget,” he said.

 

School closing tests new notification system

By KEVIN NEVERS

The decision to close Duneland Schools today, in the wake of Wednesday’s storm, was made at 5:30 a.m., while two schoolsÑ Brummitt Elementary School and the severely damaged Chesterton Middle SchoolÑwere still without power, Superintendent Dirk Baer told the Chesterton Tribune.

By 6 a.m. power to both of those schools had been restored but by that time the automated notification system had already been activated and parents were getting early-morning recorded wake-up calls.

“Our original plan had been to hold classes if all the other buildings, except for the Middle School, had power,” Baer said. “But that wasn’t the case.”

In any event, Baer added, without any clear idea in the dark of how badly hit the Duneland School Corporation had been hit, it was decided that parents may have needed some time “today to sort themselves out.”

“Our plan for tomorrow: classes as usual,” Baer said. “School will definitely be in session with the possible exception of the Middle School.”

Something like three quarters of the Goldsborough Gymnasium at CMS was damaged by the storm and this morning was open to the sky. Berglund Construction was on the ground early “getting the floor fairly well covered, trying to protect it” from the rain which was forecast to fall later today, Baer said.

One irony, every big storm has one: most of the CMS roof is brand new, installed over the summer.

“There were some other roof penetrations in other areas of CMS,” Baer noted. “Some water damage in some of the classrooms, nothing major.”

Glass damage at CMS, on the other hand, is major. Most of the broken windows have been boarded up and glaziers will soon be repairing them. There was also some damage to the office area. Outside a light standard at the football field was lost.

Apparently, though, CMS sustained no actual structural damage and remains sound, Baer said.

None of the custodians on duty at CMS during the storm was injured.

 

Beware of storm repair scams

By KEVIN NEVERS

Chesterton Building Commissioner Dave Novak has one particular piece of advice for residents whose homes were damaged by Wednesday’s storm.

Beware of fly-by-nighters who’ll take your money and run, beware of unqualified contractors who are not officially registered with the town.

Or as Town Manager Bernie Doyle said at a press conference this morning, “Be leery of people offering contractor services. There are bad people mixed in with the good.”

First thing to do, Novak said: “Make sure the contractor is registered with the town. If he’s registered, he’s bonded and insured. We’ve already gotten some calls on that this morning, tree services turning each other in because they know the other guy’s not registered.”

Then, Novak said, “you need to get the proper permits to ensure that a proper inspection can take place.”

Don’t sign any contracts until you’ve read the fine print, Novak added. Don’t write checks until you are perfectly satisfied that the contractor is legitimate. Don’t allow yourself to be pressured into anything.

In short, be careful, buyer beware.

 

Tornado? Storm rips Chesterton

By KEVIN NEVERS

What did people hear?

At 7:35 p.m.., the roar of a freight train.

Throughout the night, the low grumble of portable generators.

At dawn, the thump-thump-thump of news choppers.

This morning, chainsaws.

What didn’t people hear?

Tornado sirens. At this point, no one knows why.

An extraordinarily well defined debris path: bounded to the west by Ninth Street, to the east by Fifth Street, beginning roughly to the south at 1100N, and taking a hopping, skipping, slicing northeasterly route to 100E just south of U.S. Highway 20.

And in that path, like a war zone, terrific if arbitrary damage: downed utility poles and snaking power lines; sheered trees protruding from the ground like spears; aluminum siding impaled by tree limbs; crushed roofs, missing roofs, de-shingled roofs.

But miraculouslyÑas of deadline todayÑno injuries reported beyond minor scrapes, scratches, and bruises.

Among the most severely damaged: three quarters of the Goldsborough Gymnasium at Chesterton Middle School, right now exposed to open sky; the apartment complex at Third Street and Brown Ave.,, “catastrophically damaged,” in the words of Chesterton Town Manager Bernie Doyle; the roof of the Accucast Industries facilityÑrelocated to its current site, the old Pioneer Lumber building on Grant Ave., after a devastating fire in 2007Ñpeeled clean off.

And two homes at the extreme northeast terminus of the debris path, one of them belonging to Town Council President Emerson DeLaney, R-5th.

“Let me tell you, honestly tell you, I’ve been in a tornado,” DeLaney said. “I’d just locked up the shop and had turned onto Indian Boundary. The sky was an eerie color. I could see a cloud, one gray cloud, really strange. I called home, told them to get in the basement. I blew the light at Indian Boundary and 49 and then saw it. It was a funnel, very fat. You could see the whole thing turning, the debris being carried up. It crossed 94 right next to me. I pulled into my driveway, under a tree, got out of the truck. Mulch, tree limbs, were shooting past me. The first thing was the pressure in the air. Then the sound. Freight train? Okay, freight train. It went between my house and my neighbor’s.”

DeLaney’s neighbor’s brick house: leveled. His own: crippled.

In fact the National Weather Service (NWS) has not officially called Wednesday’s storm a tornado, although at 7:32 p.m. it posted to its website a Weathernet Sensor recording of a “wind gust . . . possibly tornadic . . . of 105 mph,” with “significant damage in the Town of Chesterton.”

At 6:30 a.m. today Andy Boxell of the NWS said that a survey team was being dispatched to Chesterton to make an assessment. “They’ll be looking for a signature in the debris,” he said. “Whether there’s a turning in the damage, any twisting of trees, a convergent damage path of debris coming together in a central point as opposed to being spread out.”

No Sirens

Tornado or no tornado, Dunelanders had no advance warning. No sirens were ever activated anywhere in the county, at least not to the knowledge of Phil Griffith, director of the Porter County Emergency Management Agency. “It was a totally unpredicted event,” he said. “The National Weather Service had issued a tornado watch earlier in the afternoon but it had already expired.”

“This was an undetected event,” Fire Chief Mike Orlich confirmed at a press conference this morning. “We’re looking into why they were not activated. There are protocols for their activation, different criteria based on spotter information. We’re still dealing with the issue.”

Certainly the storm slammed into Chesterton with astonishing speed. Chris Gilbertson, who lives on South Park Ave. just south of West Porter Ave., said that almost as soon as he realized the danger, the danger had passed. “Just as the tornado warning flashed on TV I heard my wife say ‘Hey, look outside, how cool.’ Then I yelled ‘Get into the basement.’ It happened so quick, by the time we were in the basement it was over.” This morning Gilbertson found a tree limb sticking through his roof.

Gilbertson’s neighbor, Bob Crone, gave a similar account. “It sounded like a freight train but by the time we got into the basement it was over.” The Crones lost five trees, three of them big ones.

Mark Stueber, a custodian on duty at CMS, heard a “rumble,” then ducked for cover but not quite quickly enough. “All I saw is the ceiling going up and the ceiling coming down. A ceiling tile hit my head.” Stueber’s okay, although his truck, parked across the street from CMS, was partially struck by a tree.

Ken Jaeger lives with his family in the CMS neighborhood. “We looked up, saw the wind coming in so many different directions. It flipped over our picnic table but left the chair standing.”

Initial Response

Emergency responders mustered immediately, although in the early stages their efforts were hampered by knots of gawkers, rubberneckers, and bumper-to-bumper traffic so clotted on Broadway that the CFD in the first few minutes was unable to deploy its vehicles from the station. “There were people sightseeing, kids on bikes, live wires down,” Town Manager Doyle said. “It was very dangerous. I’m very surprised no one was injured after the storm.”

Chesterton Police, assisted by DNR Conservation Officers, worked to disperse the crowds, even as they were beginning a house-to-house canvas in search of casualties. They found none. Twelve members of the Civilian Air Patrol and Boys Scouts were also knocking on doors.

In the first two hours after the storm, the CFD responded to a dozen calls. But to no fires.

The CPD was swamped with so many calls it detailed two off-duty dispatchers to assist the on-duty one, Communications Clerk Sandy Melton said.

The Street Department’s immediate priority was the clearance of roadways, Foreman Keith Parker said. A backhoe and front-end loader were used to push trees and limbs to the side and by midnight every street had been cleared with the exception of those closed by downed wires. Crews from the Utility and Park and Recreation Department assisted with that work.

Street Commissioner John Schnadenberg had been in Indianapolis at the annual convention of the Indiana Street Commissioners Association. He left his motorcycle in Indie and hitched a ride homeÑgetting frequent updates en route from ParkerÑand arrived around 11:45 p.m. At midnight he sent his crews home to sleep. “It was so black and dark it was hard to see.” They were all back on the job at 8 a.m.

Schnadenberg called the storm the worst in Chesterton since the microburst in 1998 felled trees throughout town like kindling. “This event is more isolated but there’s an awful lot of damage.”

Of particular concern to the Utility was the possibility of sanitary sewer backups, with the loss of power to the lift stations. Those were carefully monitored by crews and no backups had been reported this morning, Utility Service Board President Larry Brandt said.

Town Engineer Mark O’DellÑwhose early-hours work in organizing and coordinating the response Doyle called “marvelous”Ñdid say that a minor bypass of less than 500 gallons was recorded at the wastewater treatment plant during the switchover from grid power to emergency backup.

This Morning

With various streets still closed this morning, traffic was heavy on West Porter Ave. and Broadway as commuters were forced to find alternative routes to work, while heavy vehicles of all kindsÑchippers, cherrypickers, fire engines, front-end loaders, backhoes, NIPSCO trucksÑadded to the congestion. Insurance adjusters were on the scene too as were contractors, the number of legitimate ones probably already being swollen by fly-by-nighters.

Crews and equipment on loan from the City of Valparaiso and the Porter County Highway Department were staging in the parking lot of the old WiseWay Foods at 801 Broadway.

And a secondary canvas of households was being conducted as well to ensure that all residents have been accounted for, Doyle said.

But it was clear that town officials were only beginning to make an assessment. Orlich hoped that he would have a solid damage estimate by the evening. Schnadenberg said that his crews would begin tree removal in the area of Ninth Street and West Porter Ave. and start moving northeast.

It was too early this morning to say whether the town would seek a declaration of emergency from Gov. Mitch Daniels, Doyle said, although personnel from the Indiana Emergency Management Area were on the way.

In the town’s hour of need, Doyle added, neighbors have come and are continuing to come to its aid: the Town of Porter, the Burns Harbor and Liberty Township Volunteer fire departments, the DNR, the Indiana State Police, the Porter County Highway Department, Porter hospital EMS, the Boy Scouts, the Civilian Air Patrol, and the Porter County Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Doyle thanked them all.

 

13,000 lose power here

By KEVIN NEVERS

At the height of Wednesday’s storm, 13,000 customers of the Northern Indiana Public Service CompanyÑby far the largest part of them Chesterton residentsÑwere without power, NIPSCO Director of Communications Colleen Reilly said at a press conference this morning.

By 9 a.m. that number had been reduced to less than 400 and Reilly was hopeful that nearly all of those customers would have juice by this evening.

An unusually quick turnaround, said Reilly, whoÑwith Chesterton Town Manager Bernie Doyle and other department headsÑmanned a command center at town hall throughout the night. “That kind of turnaround doesn’t often happen that fast. Because the damage was so isolated, almost all of it in Chesterton, we were able to get our crews out and they were literally doing damage repair in the middle of the night.”

Power was restored to a wide swath of customers around 1:30 a.m. and to most of the rest of Chesterton at 6 a.m.

Reilly did not minimize, however, the work still left to crews today. “We have crews working all through the damaged area,” she said. “It’s going to be some heavy lifting getting the rest of the homes restored. There are downed trees, lines, poles, crossarms.”

And Reilly warned some residents whose homes were severely damaged that, for safety reasons, NIPSCO may not be able to turn on the juice until major repairs have been made. Those folks should seek alternative housing tonight and consult as soon as they can with a qualified electrician. “We’ll be working with the fire and police about which homes may be safely energized.”

Colleen also urged Dunelanders to be extremely cautious around live wires, some of which could well be buried beneath debris.

Town Engineer Mark O’Dell told the Chesterton Tribune that he gave Reilly two specific priorities for the restoration of power: the town’s sanitary sewer lift stations and The Waters of Duneland. And NIPSCO responded superbly, he said.

 

Storm images: Inside out umbrella,

flying shed, swirling debris

By VICKI URBANIK and MARGARET L. WILLIS

Jacob Smith learned from school what to do in the event of a tornado, and that knowledge certainly paid off for the 15-year-old Wednesday night.

Smith, a resident of the apartment complex at Third Street and Brown Avenue, was watching television when he saw the storm warnings scroll across the screen. He looked out and saw a yellow-green color sky, then took refuge in a kitchen broom closet, holding a pan securely over his head. And there in the closet he waited out the storm. He, like his neighbors, then discovered large chunks of the apartment complex roof had been torn away.

Flat on the Ground

Nearby, Jim Moranto had just parked his truck at his home on Brown Court. He heard a roar, looked over his shoulder, and saw what appeared to be a funnel cloud. Thinking that the cloud was moving west, he began running east, but he didn’t get very far. He saw flying debris -- large pieces of debris including a commercial-grade air conditioner -- when he decided it was time to lie flat on the ground. What seemed to be the worst of it then passed over him.

No Broken Glass

Bobbi Blunk of N. Third Street said the heavy winds blew her front door open. It also blew out a window “frame and all.” She then saw what appeared to be a tornado outside of her north window.

After the storm passed, she found that her window had landed in her yard. Amazingly, the glass was intact. Her father then put the window back in place to keep the rain out.

Swirling Debris

Brenda Stewart of Pinney’s Court heard what sounded like a freight train. It wasn’t long before her front door was blocked by a fallen tree.

Her basement has a large window, where Brenda, her husband John and kids waited and watched the storm pass by. They were able to see a mass of swirling debris over the Coffee Creek floodplain behind their home. After the storm, they assessed the damage -- with a number of large trees having fallen to the ground or sheared off.

Just Wind

Chuck Roth, owner of Chesterton Feed & Garden Center, had just returned to his store from a trade show in Chicago. His store was already closed, but he wanted to check on some things in the nursery. “All of a sudden, it started pouring,” he said. The wind blew through quickly enough, and Roth noticed that numerous goods had tipped over. Looking out his front and back doors, Roth figured that what had passed through was just a “heavy wind.” He then started driving home and came across downed trees, blocked roads, and a swarm of emergency vehicles. It was only then he realized that what had just hit was more than just a wind. “We were very, very lucky,” he said of the impact on his store.

In the Path

Nancy Collins doesn’t care if authorities determine that what ripped through town wasn’t a tornado. “I can tell you that we had a tornado because I saw it,” she said.

Collins, who lives on Wabash Avenue, said she and family members saw the massive rotation with debris being sucked into it over the clearing of trees across the street. “We were out in the garage when the TV screen went gray and the tornado warning came on. It was at that moment that we went outside and could see the funnel cloud. We ran for the house as the winds were roaring. Our patio table and umbrella were falling over on us as we ran by. We got inside and headed down the basement stairs. Once we got downstairs everything became quiet again. We came back up and saw the damage.”

A tree was down on the fence in the backyard and part of the front tree was also down. The patio umbrella was inside out. Collins ran down the street to check on her brother, who also had tree damage.

Resale Shop Closed

The Duneland Resale Shop on Broadway Avenue sustained massive damage to the building’s exterior, and the roof over the section for donation intakes was destroyed, said volunteer Dan Johnston.

But inside, no goods were damaged. When this morning’s rain came through, water came in through the ceiling. Volunteers Mike Anton and Ann Howard put out buckets to catch the water. But within a short time, the interior looked “exactly like it did when we closed up yesterday,” Johnston said.

The nearby hut where the Resale Shop keeps items in storage lost a good portion of its roof, Johnston said, but no Resale Shop items were damaged.

The resale shop was closed today, but Johnston said the board of directors was expected to decide later today if the shop will reopen tomorrow.

Back to Normal

Across the road on Broadway, the Edmonds & Evans Funeral Home was also in the line of the severe wind.

An employee said the fencing in the back of the facility was damaged, and a shed actually flew up onto the roof, with pieces of the shed scattered about.

But the funeral home got everything cleaned up and was operating as normal this morning.