An accident on Interstate 80-94 early Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014, involving a semitrailer and a car forced the closure of three westbound lanes near Broadway in Gary. | Indiana State Police photo
Updated: January 25, 2014 11:30PM
As an arctic blast bears down on Northwest Indiana, drivers Saturday were faced with treacherous conditions due to black ice, gusting winds and blowing snow.
Early Saturday, the Indiana State Police Lowell Post sent out an alert warning motorists of hazardous conditions on Interstate 65 and Interstate 80/94. By 10:45 a.m., the alert was intensified to include Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties. “Stay off these roads!!” the alert said.
In Portage, Portage police were checking out a pickup truck on its roof on McCool Road, north of U.S. 6, and there were reports of long backups on the eastbound Indiana East-West Toll Road at the Chesterton exit.
An Indiana Toll Road dispatcher said there had been about 50 slide-offs and crashes by noon, including nine jack-knifed semis.
The Porter County Sheriff’s department and the Indiana State Police said there have been multiple accidents and slide-offs, too.
There were no serious injuries reported from the Lake and Porter county police, but rapidly dropping temperatures, wind and drifting snow make travel difficult.
“We’re working many slide-offs, crashes, jack-knifed semis, and (accidents) involving semis and passenger vehicles,” an Indiana State Police District 13 Lowell dispatcher said. “It’s that way the whole way on I-65,” down to Indianapolis.
Along I-94, there are more problems with drifting snow going across fields in rural areas.
“People are speeding too fast for road conditions,” the dispatcher said.
INDOT crews have been spreading salt and abrasives, according to the state police, but have been challenged “to keep up with this weather event.”
Police recommended staying off of the interstates as the safest option.
On Thursday, black ice and whiteout conditions on I-94 in Michigan City is being blamed for a 46-vehicle pileup that killed three people, critically injured two more and injured another 20.
The National Weather Service predicts a new clipper system will deliver several inches snow to the area starting early Sunday, followed by high temperatures of minus 1 degree on Monday and Tuesday, coupled with biting wind chills that dip into the minus-30 range.
Porter County Sheriff’s spokesperson Sgt. Larry LaFlower sent out a warning that conditions are going to get worse.
“Be extremely cautious in your travels and leave plenty of time to get to your destination,” LaFlower said. “As we get further into the weekend with more snow, gusting winds, and dropping temps, the roadway conditions are going to become increasingly dangerous.”
This month could be the coldest start to a year in decades for much of the Midwest, said David Call, an assistant professor and severe weather expert at Ball State University in Muncie.
The recent weather pattern has consistently featured a ridge of warm air in the western U.S. and a trough of cold air in the eastern U.S., Call said in a statement, noting that the jet stream has jutted far north into western Canada before plunging deep into the southeastern U.S.