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Here we snow again: Winter storm closes schools, clogs roads

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Updated: March 7, 2014 12:55PM



Another winter storm hit Northwest Indiana overnight and into Wednesday, closing schools and slowing commuters.

More than 8 inches of snow had blanketed the area by Wednesday morning. A truck driver was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries sustained in an accident after he failed to slow for traffic on Interstate 65 in Newton County.

A warehouse roof at Von Toebel’s lumber collapsed under the weight of snow Thursday afternoon, Schererville Fire Chief Joe Kruzan said. No one was injured.

Major roads across the region were clear by afternoon, but snow still was causing some problems, Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Matt Deitchley said.

“Slush is the basic issue on the roads now, and it can be slick,” Deitchley said.

State troopers responded to crashes, slide-offs and jack-knifed semis. The Newton County crash, which involved three other semis, closed lanes until noon.

Roads aren’t the only obstacle as local heating and plumbing companies have been busy with broken furnaces and burst pipes.

Pat Popa, owner of Popa Heating and Cooling in Highland, said it has been a busy winter. Though bitter cold does tax a furnace, homeowners usually don’t experience problems until snow thaws and temperatures rise into the 30s and 40s.

“When it’s very cold, air is continuously moving, but as it gets warmer the furnace stops and starts and that’s when problems occur,” Popa said.

Tiger Plumbing owner Ross Kozora said it’s a similar situation with burst pipes.

“During the last cold snap, we only got two calls,” Kozora said. “But when it thaws, that’s when the broken pipe burts.”

Popa said some furnace problems are due to normal wear and tear; others, such as a dirty filter, are preventable.

Kozora said pipes under the kitchen sink are particularly vulnerable in older houses because builders didn’t have to seal them.

“You should turn on the faucet to a trickle about the size of a pencil lead and open up the cabinet to let warm air flow,” he said.

That will be good advice again, with temperatures dropping below zero overnight and into Thursday.

The weather service was reporting 8 inches of snow in Roselawn in Newton County, 6 inches in Crown Point, Hobart and Lakes of the Four Seasons and 5.2 inches in Portage.

Gary on Tuesday had issued a revised snow plan, warning residents it would have to get serious about enforcing towing in areas posted as snow routes. On those streets, no parking is allowed when snowfall exceeds 2 inches.

“If you’re parking where you’re not supposed to, you’re asking for enforcement,” Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson told the council Tuesday night.

The city asked motorists to park on the west and north sides of the streets to allow room for plows to work.

Gary Community schools are closed again Thursday, officials said, including all grades of Lighthouse Charter. East Chicago Lighthouse Charter also is closed Thursday.

Patti Van Til, public information officer for the Lake County Sheriff’s Department, said disabled vehicles topped the list of calls this snow event.

Officers responded to 10 disabled vehicles from midnight to 7 a.m. Wednesday and another two by early afternoon. They also responded to six other accidents.

She said it appears motorists are adapting to the snowy road conditions. Most accidents were slide-offs.

Disabled vehicles create more work for the police department and more work for local service shops.

“We’re very, very busy,” said Pete Breuckman, owner of Pete & Sons Inc. service shop in Crown Point. Cold, not snow, was the usual problem, causing ailments such as dead batteries.

Many drivers have been keeping their vehicles longer for economic reasons and the extreme conditions this winter may be taking a toll.

Breuckman said he is pleased by the extra business this winter has brought but he is more than ready to see the snow go away.

“I’m tired of the snow. The snow is the sloppy part. It gets in the cars and drips all over you. I prefer the cold,” he said.

Elsewhere in Indiana, crashes caused police to close several sections of major highways at various times, including parts of I-65 north of Lafayette.

The National Weather Service said totals included 12 inches in Kosciusko County, 11 inches in Columbia City, 10 inches in Culver and 8.5 inches in the Miami County town of Mexico, all in northern Indiana.

Post-Tribune staff writer Christin Nance Lazerus and correspondents Carrie Napoleon and Michelle L. Quinn and AP contributed to this report.



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