That chill in the air isn’t going anywhere
BY CHRISTIN NANCE LAZERUS firstname.lastname@example.org January 27, 2014 8:30PM
Derrick Zieba braves the cold walking down Merrillville Road in Crown Point, IN on January 27, 2014. | Jim Karczewski\for Sun-Times media
schools closed tuesday
East Porter Schools
Lake Central Schools
Lake Station Schools
Gary Community Schools
Highland Public Schools
Griffith Public Schools
MSD of New Durham (Westville)
Merrillville Community Schools
Michigan City Schools
Portage Township Schools
River Forest Community Schools
School City of Hobart
School City of Whiting
School City of Hammond
School Town of Munster
Thea Bowman Leadership Acedemy (Gary)
Valparaiso Community Schools
Eagle Park Community School/NISEC
2-HOUR DELAY WEDNESDAY
Valparaiso Community Schools
Updated: March 3, 2014 1:02PM
The high winds and bone-chilling temperatures hitting northwest Indiana will continue to make it hazardous to travel or even just go outdoors on Tuesday.
Winds may die down a little by mid-morning but are expected to pick back up by early afternoon, creating wind chills of minus-35 to minus-40 degrees, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Amy Seeley.
Extreme cold presents risk for frostbite or hypothermia, so many schools have delayed or cancelled school outright.
So have many public buildings; the Lake County Government Center will be closed Tuesday, while the Porter County Government Center will open two hours late. Merrillville Town Hall will be closed, while Valparaiso City Hall will open at 10 a.m.
The Clean Air Car Check emissions testing program will be closed Tuesday.
East Chicago has a warming shelter open from 4 p.m. to 7 a.m. at Heritage Hall Community Center, located at 4506 Tod Ave.
Herbert Cruz, director of emergency management, said he can expect perhaps 10 people to take advantage of the shelter any time it is open.
Those numbers climb in an emergency, such as a fire. Cruz said the city will work with the Red Cross to provide services and shelter as needed for residents who may be displaced for some reason.
And those warming centers can be vital in preventing exposure. Bill Bero, spokesman for Franciscan Alliance, said there have been minor cases of frostbite at both Franciscan St. Margaret Health in Dyer and Hammond.
“(There also has been) several injuries caused by falls on ice,” Bero said.
Temperatures are expected to rise to the mid-teens by Wednesday, but the price for slightly higher temperatures is more snow forecast late in the week.
Snowfall may have been just an inch or two Sunday night, but wind gusts created close to white-out conditions, particularly on I-94 in LaPorte and Porter counties.
The National Weather Service determined that 27 of the past 50 days have included at least one-tenth of an inch of accumulating snowfall, which has happened just four other times in the Chicago area since 1884.
That relentless snow has squeezed the budgets of many municipalities.
Hobart’s 16 snow plow drivers have been working 16-hour shifts with only three days off since the beginning of the year, just about depleting the department’s snow budget, Public Works director John Dubach said.
“It’s tough. They’ve been working Friday, coming back Saturday afternoon and again on Sunday, and Sundays are double-time days,” Dubach said.
The drivers are paid time-and-a-half after eight hours.
Robert Fulton, assistant to Mayor Brian Snedecor, said Hobart has applied for disaster assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help pay for some of the snow removal costs.
Disaster funds may be available after Gov. Mike Pence declared the region, and much of the state, a state of emergency after the Jan. 5-6 storm.
“You can’t really budget for what I believe has been the worst winter we’ve had since the 1980s,” Fulton said.
Lake County Highway Department Superintendent Marcus Malczewski said the county has enough salt, but the overtime budget is another matter.
In Merrillville, it’s the other way around.
Town manager and director of operations Bruce Spires said although the town has paid a lot in overtime to keep the streets clear, its budget is holding up pretty well.
Salt is their problem.
“We’ve gone through two-thirds of our salt allotment and there’s still the rest of this month, February and March to go through. We’ve been cutting back in case we can’t get salt,” Spires said.
Many local officials face the same situation, which will limit the supply — and possibly raise the price — of what salt there is to be had.
He said the town is able to save only so much from previous mild winters. “We can only have as much as our salt dome will hold,” Spires said.
Dubach said Hobart is still in pretty good shape on salt, even though it’s already used more than 2,000 pounds so far this winter. He said the city still has 800 pounds of salt on hand and can get more, if needed.
“We’ll make it to March,” Dubach said.
He said he’s heard talk of a salt shortage. However, he said the problem isn’t a lack of salt, but a lack of trucks to haul the salt to communities.
“Most communities buy their salt through state bid. Everyone from Lafayette north is getting their supply from the same company. With everyone needing salt at the same time, it just takes longer to get it,” Dubach said.
Valparaiso officials reminded people that it is conserving salt by mixing it with sand and using it judiciously, such as only on dangerous areas, such as “hills, curves, roundabouts, intersections (stop signs and stoplights), railroad crossings, bridges, school zones, and turn lanes.”
The city will plow neighborhood streets but not salt them.
Valparaiso is also delaying the hours City Hall is opening on Tuesday because of the weather. The building will open at 10 a.m. instead of 8:30 a.m.
The city’s Department of Public Works is postponing trash and recycling services by a day starting Tuesday.
Carrie Napoleon, Karen Caffarini, James D. Wolf Jr. and Michelle L. Quinn contributed to this report.