A tree crashed through the side fence at Mike Minogue's Merrillville home. | Karen Caffarini-for Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 3, 2014 6:19AM
Homeowners living near Merrillville High School around 68th Place to 70th Avenue were busy Tuesday morning cleaning up what fallen branches and trees that they could handle while hoping their power would come back on soon.
Clarence Holodick said he always worried about a massive tree near the back of his house, but it was the tree in his front yard that came down during Monday night’s storm, barely missing his house and leaving behind a yard full of branches and leaves. Fortunately for him, neighbors Scott and Judy Collins came by to help Holodick, who’s in his 80s.
“It’s neighbors helping neighbors,” Judy Collins said.
Scott Collins said he still had to remove some branches from a power line at his house.
“I want to get them down before NIPSCO turns the power back on,” he said.
The Merrillville homeowners were among thousands of residents in Lake and Porter counties who waited for power to return Tuesday.
According to the Northern Indiana Public Service Company’s outage map, more than 71,000 customers were without power at mid-morning Tuesday.
Worst hit areas included more than 9.200 customers in Merrillville, more than 5,000 in Hammond and more than 3,000 in Portage and 2,400 in Schererville.
NIPSCO field crews continued work on Tuesday to restore service across Northern Indiana. By midafternoon Tuesday, more than 60,000 customers were still without power across Northern Indiana, according to NIPSCO’s outage map.
A few blocks away from Holodick, Lori Broaders, director of Happy Days Learning Center and After School Care, was waiting for an insurance agent to arrive as she watched workers from a professional tree company remove three trees that were badly damaged in the storm, one of which put a significant dent in the backyard fence.
Broaders said the school had to close for the day due to a lack of power.
Hobart Public Works director John Dubach said about 60 trees south of 10th Street were toppled during the storm.
“Some of the trees were just falling down, I think because the ground is so wet,” Dubach said.
He said Public Works crews were out Tuesday picking up tree limbs, but probably wouldn’t be done in time for the July 4th holiday.
Jim Johnston Jr. was picking up branches at his aunt’s house on 10th Street, but also had to remove the top of a pine tree from the roof of his pole barn across the street and a large tree that barely missed his father’s house next door to his.
“I saw stuff flying at my neighbor’s house. I thought the storm was ripping their house apart. Then we heard a loud crash coming from my barn. And then all of a sudden it was over, just like that,” Johnston said.
The worst of the damage, according to NIPSCO, was in the Crown Point, Demotte, Lake Village, Lowell, Schneider and Shelby areas where extensive structural damage to the NIPSCO electric transmission and distribution systems — including toppled transmission towers, broken utility poles, downed power lines and other equipment damage — occurred.
Crown Point Mayor Dave Uran, like many area residents, took cover in his basement.
Uran said after the first storm passed through, there was water ni his basement. After he got it cleaned up, the second storm blew through and he and his family took cover under the stairs with a mattress over them.
“Unfortunately, we are getting good at this because Mother Nature comes at us all too often,” said Uran.
Aside from some downed tree limbs and power lines, little damage was reported in Porter County.
According to reports from weather spotters on the National Weather Service website, winds hit 75 mph shortly before 11 p.m. in Hebron, and were 60 mph a little bit after that in Valparaiso.
Winds of 65 mph also were reported during the first round of storms, after 8 p.m. in Chesterton.
Representatives from the Porter County Sheriff’s Department and the county’s Emergency Management Agency, though, said storm damage was limited, even though the tornado sirens went off a little bit after 10:30 p.m.
“Obviously there were downed trees and downed wires throughout (the county),” said EMA Director Russ Shirley, adding that in most places, the power was back on and the county highway department had completed much of the cleanup by Tuesday morning. “The sirens went off, but other than that, there’s not much to report.”
Lightning struck the sheriff’s department, 2755 S. Ind. 49, said Sgt. Larry LaFlower, the department’s public information officer, damaging computers that serve the county’s central dispatch system and the jail, but the facility never lost power.
Officials with the Kouts and Hebron police departments did not report any major storm damage.
The utility expects to have power restored to day for most, but warned that some areas in Crown Point and DeMotte may not be restored until Wednesday.