Chesterton Tribune

 

 

National Guard in action to rescue motorists in Porter County

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By KEVIN NEVERS

Motorists stranded in their vehicles on Ind. 8 between Kouts and Hebron were being rescued by the Indiana National Guard today, as a state of emergency remained in effect in Porter County until further notice, the Porter County Sheriff’s Police said.

Ind. 8 “looks like a parking lot,” PCSP Sgt. Larry LaFlower told the Chesterton Tribune this morning. “We’ve got to get the abandoned vehicles off the roads so we can open the roads.”

Under the state of emergency, which went into effect at 6 p.m. Sunday, all but emergency traffic has been banned in unincorporated Porter County.

The good news: as of 8 a.m. today there had been no reports of casualties due to the weather, LaFlower said.

The stranded vehicles, however, were severely impeding the progress of the County Highway Department’s plows, withdrawn from the roads at 6 p.m. Sunday but returned to service at 4 a.m. today. “We’re running into a lot of stranded vehicles,” Deputy Highway Superintendent David James said. “They’re in our way and we have to wait for them to be towed. It’ll take most of the day. As for the subdivisions, I don’t know when we’ll get to them.”

Folks who live in the Town of Chesterton or the City of Valparaiso—where many or most main streets are passable—have no idea how bad the unincorporated roads are, James added. “It’s a whole different story in the county. It’s like night and day. It’s like Indiana and Florida.”

In Chesterton, meanwhile, an all-hands effort has succeeded in opening all roads, Street Commissioner John Schnadenberg said. “We rotated in 12-hours shifts, with help from the Utility, Park, and Engineering departments. I’m proud of the teamwork.”

Crews are now concentrating on plowing up to the mailboxes and clearing cul-de-sacs in the subdivisions. Cul-de-sacs should be cleared by 2:30 p.m., Schnadenberg estimated.

“I’m surprised the guys were able to do as much as they did,” he said. “The conditions last night were extremely difficult, with the blowing snow. We could only drive 10 miles per hour because of visibility issues. The route to Crocker was the hardest and 1100N and 1050N were also tough. I’m very proud of my men.”

Schnadenberg did attribute part of the victory over the snow to the Street Department’s “good, reliable” fleet. “Having updated equipment made all the difference,” he said.

Traveling in town was possible this morning. Getting out of town, on the other hand, would be a problem, as I-94 from the Illinois state line to the Michigan remained closed this morning. “It’s been years since I’ve heard of that,” Schnadenberg said.

In fact, Chesterton Police Chief Dave Cincoski told the Tribune, Indiana State Police troopers were posted at I-94 on-ramps precisely to keep motorists off the Interstate.

Here “things are actually pretty quiet,” Cincoski said. “The roads are snow covered but passable. The Street Department did a very good job. Officers had a quiet shift last night and people are staying off the roads. There have been no crashes reported.”

As of 7:15 a.m. today, no one had taken advantage of the warming shelter at the town hall, 726 Broadway.

The Chesterton Fire Department also had a mostly quiet night, although firefighters did respond to four medical calls, two of them requiring transport to hospital, CFD spokesman Nate Williams said. In those cases a municipal plow led the way and cleared a path for the emergency vehicles.

None of the medical calls were weather related, Williams noted.

In Porter, plow crews have been on duty continuously, in 12-hours shifts, for the last 72 hours, Public Works Director Brenda Brueckheimer said. Three Public Works employees worked through Sunday night, with the result that all of the main roads had two-lane access, with side streets and subdivisions having one-lane access.

Porter Beach, however, was not accessible at mid-morning, thanks to seven- and eight-foot snowdrifts. “We’ve got a loader clearing alleys, then we’ll go out to Porter Beach,” Brueckheimer said.

There was one trip to Porter Beach on Sunday night, though, when an elderly resident’s furnace gave out, prompting the Porter Fire Department to respond. “We got her to another house,” Deputy Fire Chief Jay Craig said—after a path had been cleared by a Public Works plow.

The Town of Chesterton’s municipal offices were open for business today.

So was Hopkins Ace Hardware.

A skeleton crew was manning the phones at the offices of the Chesterton Tribune, but there will be no print edition of the paper today, so as not to put carriers in danger from the bitter cold. A combined Monday/Tuesday edition will be printed on Tuesday, Jan, 7.

 

Posted 1/6/2014