It was a tornado, it was born at 7:32 p.m. Wednesday and died 13
minutes later, and over its brief life span it damaged 211 structures, eight
of them utterly.
The tornado’s path extended further to the northeast than was originally
believed, to Hadenfelt Road in unincorporated Westchester Township and into
the Ly-co-ki-we area of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in Furnessville.
Meanwhile, cleanup in the Town of Chesterton is expected to take several
And emergency responders have a better--though not a total--understanding of
why sirens were never activated.
Begin with the storm survey conducted on Thursday by meteorologists with the
National Weather Service (NWS). Their conclusion: an EF2 tornado--at its
height--was responsible for the damage inflicted on Chesterton and points
The NWS timeline:
*The tornado formed as an EF1 at 7:32 p.m. in the area east of 11th Street
and southwest of South Park Ave.
*It quickly intensified as it moved northeast--it would continue to move
northeast in almost a straight line for the duration of its life--to
collapse the roof of the Goldsborough Gymnasium at Chesterton Middle School.
At this point the tornado was generating winds of 110 miles per hour and had
a path width of 40 yards.
*The tornado then jumped the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks in the
direction of Grant Ave., peeling off the roof of a warehouse and tossing it
behind the building 15 yards to the north.
*Increasing in intensity, at this point rated an EF2 with winds of 120 mph
and a path width of 60 yards, the tornado crashed into the apartment complex
at Brown Ave. and Third Street. Continuing in a northeasterly direction, it
damaged nearly every house in the Pinney’s Park neighborhood and razed an
entire field of healthy old hard wood trees.
*The tornado began to weaken slightly--now an EF1 again--as it approached
the eastbound I-94 exit/westbound entrance ramps at Ind. 49, but its 100 mph
winds remained substantial enough to blow off a garage roof south of the
*Packing winds of around 95 miles per hour, with a path width of 30 yards,
it crossed Ind. 49 in the direction of U.S. Highway 20, near Hadenfelt Road,
where it peeled off the aluminum sheeting of a storage facility.
*Finally, the tornado moved through the heavily forested area of the Ly-co-ki-we
Trail in Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and crossed U.S. Highway 12.
*“Radar imagery and an aerial survey suggest that the tornado dissipated
between U.S. 12 and Lake Michigan at about 7:45 p.m.,” NWS said. When it
died, the tornado had traveled a distance of four miles and cut a damage
swath of approximately one quarter of a mile in width.
At a press conference late Thursday afternoon, Chesterton Fire Chief Mike
Orlich gave this rundown on damage in town:
*A total of 211 structures--residences, businesses, and accessory structures
like garages and sheds--sustained damage.
*Eight of those structures were simply destroyed.
*54 of them sustained “major damage”: trees through roofs, windows blown
*The remaining 149 structures sustained “some sort of damage”: missing
shingles, gutters mangled.
“A lot of properties are listed as having storm-effect damage but are still
livable,” Orlich said. The residents of homes which are not currently
livable, he added, “have been put in contact with the Red Cross or the
Salvation Army. But most have turned to family, friends, or neighbors for
For his part Street Commissioner John Schnadenberg reported that all
roadways were now open, thanks to the assistance of the City of Valparaiso
and the Porter County Highway Department, who loaned heavy equipment to the
town and human muscle. “They were instrumental,” he said.
Some alleys, however, remain closed, Schnadenberg noted, and it may take
several weeks to open them. In fact, he said, cleanup is expected to
continue for the next three to four weeks.
At this time Orlich is attributing the non-activation of sirens to the near
simultaneity of the NWS’s identification of the tornado at 7:32 p.m., its
formal issuance of a warning, and the tornado’s actual touchdown. In other
words, he said, events happened very quickly and the tornado moved very
Nevertheless, Orlich told the Chesterton Tribune today that Phil
Griffith, director of the Porter County Emergency Management Agency--whose
responsibility it is to activate sirens--continues to investigate the
As of Thursday evening, 450 customers of the Northwest Indiana Public
Service Company remained without power, NIPSCO spokesman Nick Meyers said
“The bulk” of those customers were restored by midnight and the rest
“wrapped up by 5 a.m.,” he said.
There remain around a dozen customers, though, whose houses have not yet
been energized for safety reasons. Meyers said that those customers have
been informed of that fact and of the need to schedule an inspection or
retain a contractor to repair damage.
Customers who remain without power but have not heard from NIPSCO should
call NIPSCO’s Customer Contact Center at (800) 464-7726 or (800) 382-5544.
“We appreciate people’s patience,” Meyers said. He also expressed his
gratitude to the Town of Chesterton, its officials, and its employees for
helping NIPSCO crews with restoration. “We’re very pleased with the quick
NIPSCO crews will remain in the area for some time, he added, doing tree
trimming and other storm-related work.
*A piece of debris believed to be part of the Goldsborough Gymnasium roof
was found in a yard in the 100 block of Woodlawn Ave., approximately one
mile northeast of Chesterton Middle School.
*An indoor riding area--104’ x 60’--was essentially destroyed in the
Hadenfelt Road area of unincorporated Westchester Township, Carol Hadenfelt
told the Tribune. “Miraculously the horses were not injured,” she
said, although several geese in the facility were killed. Pieces of sheet
metal were wrapped around tree limbs 20 to 30 feet off the ground.
*Doors were blown off the hinges of the comfort station at Lakeview Beach in
Beverly Shores, the National Park Service (NPS) said. The restrooms will be
closed for repairs.
*The Ly-co-ki-we Trail has also been closed for public safety until several
large uprooted or unstable trees can be removed. “It will take some time for
us to check each of the 45 miles of trail in the National Lakeshore, so we
are asking the public to keep a heads-up for dangerous trees or limbs and
call (800) PARKTIP to report potentially hazardous trail conditions,” NPS
spokesperson Lynda Lancaster said.
Road in the National Lakeshore between School House Road and North Veden
Road (C.R. 200E) has been closed as well until several unstable trees there
have been removed, NPS said.