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Portion of Indiana 2 closed after towers collapse

The roblew off house 1100 block Sunnyslope Lakes Four Seasons landed driveway trees home across street during Wednesday night's storm.

The roof blew off the house in the 1100 block of Sunnyslope in Lakes of the Four Seasons and landed in the driveway and trees of the home across the street during Wednesday night's storm. | Karen Caffarini-for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: July 15, 2013 7:44PM



A stretch of Indiana 2 between U.S. 231 and Interstate 65 was closed Thursday as crews cleared three downed power-line towers in the aftermath of Wednesday night’s storms, which featured heavy winds, hail and lightning.

Crews were working to clear the roadway in southeast Lake County and southwest Porter County, according to a statement Thursday morning from the Indiana Department of Transportation, which is asking drivers to avoid the area until crews can reopen the road.

A Northern Indiana Public Service Co. official late Thursday afternoon said he expected utility crews to have their work on Indiana 2 between U.S. 231 and Interstate 65 cleared by evening, but he was unsure when the highway would reopen.

The Indiana Department of Transportation initially said the road could be closed for three days. Nick Meyer, NIPSCO’s communications manager, said it will be up to INDOT to determine when it’s safe to reopen the road.

High winds took down three high-tension towers on Indiana 2 and brought power lines down on the highway. The towers are 140 to 150 feet tall.

“It takes an intense wind to take those down. Mother Nature played a role,” Meyer said.

NIPSCO has rerouted power to customers in southeast Lake County and southwest Porter County, and later will assess if the towers can be salvaged.

By late Thursday afternoon, about 4,500 NIPSCO customers remained without power, with about 1,500 of them in Crown Point. According to the utility’s website, more than 45,000 customers lost power during Wednesday night’s storm.

Power restoration for most of the customers is expected by late Friday evening, while a few individual customers may be without power into early Saturday due to the extensive system repairs required, according to the site.

“When you get to the end of a storm, especially one like this one, you may have a lot of small pockets without power,” Meyer said.

Roof flies off home

In Lakes of the Four Seasons, one of the hardest hit areas in Northwest Indiana, a roof blew off a house in the 1100 block of Sunnyslope and landed across the street, in the trees, driveway and yard of Clara and James Pushman, who assessed the damage Thursday morning.

“The roof and insulation are in my house in the front room, in the front yard and in the trees,” Clara Pushman said.

A screened porch that James Pushman said he just finished redoing was damaged, a front window was broken and a tree fell on their garage.

Clara Pushman said it looked like the storm followed a trail along the side of their house, uprooting or splitting trees, tossing part of a swing into the lake behind their house and removing the top of a gazebo.

“The insurance company said not to touch anything, but I can’t live like this,” James Pushman said.

Clara Pushman said the neighbors across the street told her they were outside when the storm hit. They went to the bottom level of the house where they heard what sounded like tin cans.

“When they came upstairs, the roof was gone and everything was all wet,” Pushman said.

She said the occupants are renting the house from her sister.

In the gated community, workers were busy removing trees that fell on the golf course, by the 19th Hole restaurant and in peoples’ yards. Some trees completely blocked driveways or fell on roofs.

Rick Cleveland, LOFS community manager, said the community lost several hundred big, old oak trees, most of which were on the golf course. He said the golf course was closed Thursday as cleanup took place, but he hopes to have it reopened on Friday.

Some trees landed on top of a few cars parked at the 19th Hole restaurant at Sunnyslope and Lake Shore Drive. Cleveland said most of the cars sustained minor dents and damages, but one car suffered a busted front windshield.

“We’re fortunate that no one was injured,” Cleveland said.

He said an employee at the restaurant could see the windows flexing from the wind.

Cleveland said he joined maintenance workers Wednesday night in clearing trees and debris from LOFS streets so emergency vehicles and others could get through, then headed to 109th Avenue, where they helped neighboring Winfield clear downed trees and debris.

“We wanted to get the power back on so people could watch the end of the Blackhawks game,” Cleveland said. “People were in their cars listening to the game. They all started honking when the Blackhawks won.”

County building floods

Lake County Surveyor George Van Til said he was in the field Thursday checking on Lake County’s flooding “hot spots,” which had no problems overnight.

“I was very relieved. There was some wind damage to be sure, but in terms of water everything looked good,” Van Til said.

However, the surveyor’s office inside the Lake County Government Center did not fare so well. Van Til said he was awoken by calls saying the conference room and hallway in the surveyor’s office had flooded.

Lake County Commissioner Michael Repay, D-Hammond, said the county experienced some wind damage to the roof of the A building where the mechanical systems are located. The wind caught a corner of the roof and pulled up about a 30-by-50-foot section, causing the water damage. Repay said it appears only the surveyor’s office was damaged and most of the damage is cosmetic. He said the surveyor’s office staff and maintenance staff cleaned up the water.

“It’s not really as bad as it could have been,” Repay said.

He said the roof should be covered by insurance since it is relatively new. Workers were using a crane to make temporary repairs to the roof late Thursday afternoon until more permanent repairs can be completed. Cost of the damage was unknown.

Fact-finding mission

National Weather Service meteorologist David Beachler said the feared derecho weather system never developed, but the storms were still severe. Lakes of the Four Seasons, Crown Point, Winfield and Merrillville experienced significant wind damage, downed power lines and outages, downed trees, and heavy rainfall that caused flash flooding.

The Porter County Sheriff’s Department reported some trees down and a few house fires from the storm but no major damage, said Sgt. Larry LaFlower, the department’s public information officer.

Likewise, Sgt. Keith Hughes, public information for the Portage Police Department, said that city didn’t have any serious storm damage.

“I think most of it went south,” he said.

A National Weather Service survey crew was examining weather damage Thursday in Kankakee, Ill., and may venture into Indiana to assess as well.

“It’s a fact-finding mission to see what actually happened, so we can make an assessment and get that out to the public quickly,” Beachler said.

Contributing: correspondents
Amy Lavalley, Karen Caffarini and Carrie Napoleon and staff writer Christin Nance Lazerus



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