Big chill: Region braces for blizzard conditions, subzero cold
Post-Tribune staff report January 4, 2014 11:19PM
John Krocker of Lowell does some shopping Saturday. Krocker said he is not worried about the potential for a lot of snow. | Carrie Napoleon/for Sun-Times Media
Crown Point: Civic Center, 101 N. East St., will be open as a warming center as of Sunday morning. Hours were still being determined Friday afternoon.
Dyer: Town Hall, at One Town Square, 24 hours as a warming shelter. If shelter is needed after normal business hours of 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, residents can call police at 865-1163 and someone will open Town Hall.
East Chicago: Heritage Hall, 4506 Tod Ave., 4 p.m. to 7 a.m. through Monday. Police station and library are available during daytime hours.
Gary: Calumet Township Trustee Multipurpose Center, 1900 W. 41st Ave., 24 hours as needed; Hudson/Campbell Fitness Center, 455 Massachusetts St. 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; Public Safety Facility, 555 Polk St., 24 hours. For more information, contact the Citizen Services Desk at 881-1300.
Griffith: North Fire Station, Town Hall, 111 N. Broad St.; the Franklin Center, 201 N. Broad, 24 hours on an as-needed basis. Call the police department at 924-3141 or town hall at 924-7500.
Hammond: The Jean Shepherd Center, 3031 Mahoney Drive, during the day; State Street Center, 525 State St., Capes House at 662 E. Sibley Blvd., and the warming shelter at 525 State St. after hours.
Hobart: Festival Park Community Center, 111 Old Ridge Road; police/court/community center, 705 E. 4th St., Monday during the day if needed; Maria Reiner Center, 705 E. 4th St., for seniors during regular hours. Those needing extended hours should call the police dispatch center at 942-1125.
Lowell: Lowell fire station, 1331 W. Commercial Ave., if needed.
Merrillville: Call Merrillville Police at 769-3531 and Council President Carol Miano will open the Town Council chambers at 7820 Broadway from 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., as needed. Individuals are asked to bring their own blankets, pillows and food.
Munster: Call police at 836-6600.
New Chicago: The basement at Town Hall, 122 Huber, 24 hours. If shelter is needed after 5 p.m. call county sheriff on the phone in Town Hall hallway and someone will be dispatched to open the building.
Schererville: The Town Hall meeting and community rooms are available during normal business hours.
St. John: The St. John Public Safety, 11033 W. 93rd Ave., 24 hours. In the event of a community-wide power outage, Lake Central High School, 8400 Wicker Ave., will be open as a warming center 24 hours.
Whiting: Whiting Community Center, 1938 Clark St., 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. In the event of an after-hours emergency, call police at 659-2131.
Winfield: Winfield Library, 10645 Randolph, is available as a warming center during normal business hours.
Chesterton: Town Hall, 726 Broadway, 24 hours.
Hebron: Families without heat at home can call town hall at 996-4641 and the fire station on Indiana 2 will be opened as a warming facility. In the event of a town-wide power outage, Hebron High School at 509 S. Main St. will open to families.
Portage: Families should call Portage police at 762-3122. Fire Station 1, 3401 Swanson Road, Fire Station 2, 6275 Old Porter and Fire Station 3, 6070 Central Ave. and Woodland Park, 2100 Willowcreek Road, serve as 24-hour warming stations.
LaPorte: IU Health LaPorte Hospital, 1007 Lincolnway, 326-1234, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the lobbies and the chapel.
Michigan City: City Hall, 100 E. Michigan Blvd., 873-1400, normal business hours; police station, 102 W. 2nd St., 874-3221, 24 hours; fire administration building, 2510 E. Michigan Blvd., 873-1440, normal business hours
Email information on warming centers to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Updated: February 6, 2014 6:44AM
Heavy snow, strong winds and plummeting temperatures are mixing up a dangerous winter cocktail, with wind chill potentially reaching 40 degrees below zero.
The National Weather Service warns of three winter weather factors, with snow accumulations between 6 and 12 inches, temperatures dropping to subzero levels, and high winds causing blizzard conditions over the next three days.
Weather service spokesman Richard Castro said a winter storm warning across the region was issued for Saturday afternoon and into Sunday evening.
Snowfall is expected to continue until Sunday afternoon, but by Sunday night and into Monday, strong winds combined with low temperatures will cause dangerous wind chill effects.
“The combination of all those factors will drop wind chill values as low as 40 to even 50 degrees below zero,” Castro said. “It’s pretty much life-threatening cold, with wind gusts reaching over 30 mph.”
Winds are expected to let up by midday Tuesday, but temperatures aren’t likely to rise until Wednesday.
Snowplow crews have been preparing for the heavy snow for the past two days, Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Matt Deitchley said.
“We’ve had plows out on the road pretty much all week, considering all the snow,” Deitchley said. “But we expect the potential blizzard conditions to start [Saturday].”
Porter County Sheriff public information officer Sgt. Larry LaFlower urged residents to hunker down.
“I know that Sunday is church day for many, but if you can, please go next week when the weather’s a bit better,” LaFlower said. “If you must leave, please stay on main roads, because the back country roads are surrounded by fields and will drift over quickly.”
LaFlower said the Sheriff’s Department and the Porter County commissioners could activate their emergency plan, in which police will respond only to emergency calls as well as station officers at the South Haven, Pines, Union Township and Washington Township, and Hebron and Kouts volunteer fire departments.
He advised anyone whose car is stuck in snow to call dispatch at (219) 477-3000 and ask for a tow truck immediately. But to avoid getting stuck, LaFlower said, residents really need to stay out of the snow.
Valparaiso University announced Saturday it would suspend all operations from Sunday until noon Tuesday due to the weather.
Residents stock up
Snow shovels, salt, lock de-icers, space heaters and food — lots of food — were moving out of stores in Lowell as residents prepared for the arctic blast.
Gabe Reece was buying a shovel at Tri-Creek Lumber and Hardware in anticipation of the coming snowfall. An attempt to buy a shovel across the street at another store failed; the shovels were sold out.
“It’s been kind of broken all season,” the Lowell resident said, adding it has not been much of a problem with the smaller snowfalls.
He was not alone. Jody Bohney, who works in contractor sales at Tri-Creek, said shoppers had been coming in all day purchasing shovels, space heaters and tube sand motorists place over the rear axles of their pick-up trucks to provide additional weight and traction.
“We’ve sold a lot of horse bedding for pets,” Bohney said, adding she expects to see an influx of customers Monday seeking heat tape for frozen pipes and supplies to repair those that have burst.
However, not all purchases made have been to deal with the storm. She said the store sold out of sleds Saturday except for two little gliders, and a number of customers had been coming in for supplies like paint and drywall.
“They said if they were going to be snowed in for a couple days they may as well do something constructive,” Bohney said.
Across the street, the Strack and Van Til supermarket was packed with shoppers. Bob Dennis, store manager, said the store had been steadily busy starting at 8 a.m. with shoppers stocking up on water, snow salt, snack food and lots of produce.
Sisters Heidi Laub and Brandy Matovina were all laughs as they filled their shopping carts. The women said they moved their regular shopping day up from Monday because the temperatures were predicted to be so cold and they would have had to bring their children along.
“We’re part of the mayhem,” Matovina joked, as shoppers packing the aisles tried maneuvering around one another.
They said they were buying more snack foods than normal because their families likely will be housebound for a couple days, and like many shoppers at the store, they, too, were grabbing an extra bottle of wine or two and a few more beers.
“We want to make sure we have everything ready to go,” Laub said.
In the Calumet Avenue Strack and Van Til in Valparaiso, Kelsey Costner was less worried about the storm, and just taking care of groceries.
“I guess we’re just getting ready to not have to go out tomorrow,” Costner said.
John Krocker was a little more pragmatic about the pending snowfall. The Lowell resident said he was just doing his regular grocery shopping Saturday and was not too worried about what the weather may have in store. Krocker said it would take more than snow to trap him indoors for an extended period of time.
“I’ve got a big ol’ four-by-four. Nothing stops me,” he said, balking at the idea of hunkering down for the storm. “That’s what we live out here (in the country) for.”
Police issue warning
Indiana State Police issued a warning Saturday to drivers who abandon their vehicles, saying officials will begin towing, at the owner’s expense, vehicles that get in the way of snow removal.
State police also created a web page dedicated to the storm. The page will be updated beginning Sunday and continuing through Monday or later, a news release said. Visit the website at www.in.gov/isp/3096.htm.
Both the National Weather Service and INDOT agreed that people should avoid travel unless it’s necessary.
“A lot of people from Northwest Indiana consider themselves as hearty and can handle bad snowstorms, and they tune out the winter warnings as white noise,” INDOT spokesman Deitchley warned. “But this is a different kind of storm, for a number of reasons. If you can, please stay home.”
Post-Tribune reporter Matt Mikus and correspondents Carrie Napoleon and Michelle L. Quinn contributed.