Snow slows both driving, ISTEP exams in Northwest Indiana
By Christin Nance Lazerus email@example.com March 5, 2013 11:56AM
Faith, 11 and Brendan, 9, Clinton of Crown Point shovel the sidewalk in front of their home during the snow storm in Crown Point Tuesday afternoon. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 7, 2013 6:20AM
Northwest Indiana residents were digging out their driveways and cleaning off cars after Tuesday’s steady diet of snow, strong winds and cool temperatures created treacherous driving conditions.
Communities were blanketed by between 5 and 10 inches of snow. Local snow totals include 10 inches in Chesterton, 5.5 inches in Whiting, 7.3 inches in Portage, 6.3 inches in Highland, and 7 inches in Beverly Shores.
Dozens of crashes and slide-offs happened on local roads, particularly on the Borman Expressway and Interstate 65. Indiana State Police Cpl. Bill Jones said many of the 50-plus crashes were due to drivers going too fast for conditions.
“I’m not going to blame it on Mother Nature because we’ve known this storm was coming for days,” Jones said. “We have twice as many crashes than we do have people to respond.”
The Indiana Department of Transportation had all of its more than 170 plows on the roads Tuesday night as snow was falling at a rate of 1 to 2 inches per hour. Drifting snow and slick roads made driving difficult. In Rensselaer, a truck accident closed all northbound lanes of I-65 on Tuesday night.
The heaviest snow occurred in the afternoon. The snow tapered off in the evening, but 30 to 35 mph wind gusts caused blowing and drifting snow.
Drivers reported some snow was starting to stick to the roadways shortly before 11 a.m. Tuesday.
For Northwest Indiana schools, the snowstorm couldn’t have come at a worse time. Schools began the first part of ISTEP Plus testing on Monday and have a 10-day window to complete it. Some districts, including Gary Community School Corp. dismissed classes early. Valparaiso and Union Township districts canceled classes entirely.
Lake Station Superintendent Dan DeHaven said his district needed every day of the 10-day period. DeHaven said he chose not to cancel classes or dismiss early.
“We have so many little kids, if we close school during the day, it almost puts kids more at risk,” he said.
About 15 percent of Northwest Indiana’s snow typically falls in March, with a monthly average of 5.6 inches, according to the National Weather Service.
Lake County Highway Department Superintendent Marcus Malczewski said he kept close tabs on the reports from the National Weather Service. The county has 550 miles of roads to clear and 36 trucks to get the job done.
So far this year, the department has spent about $225,000 on materials. Last year the tab came in at $162,500. While there has been significantly less snow this year over last, much of the salt used this season has been on the repeated icy rains. For winter 2010-2011, the county spent $329,000 on materials.
“We don’t know what is in the future, but hopefully this is our last snow,” Malczewski said.
INDOT workers pretreated roads on Monday with a salt and water brine mixture that helps keep the roads clear during the early part of a storm.
About 150 plows were on the road Tuesday either salting or doing patrols depending on what the weather was doing in their particular area. In the Gary area, those plows were salting heavily and preparing to plow.
There are about 5,000 miles of state roads in the LaPorte District. That includes Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Starke St. Joseph, Marshall and Pulaski counties.
Deitchley said the district is set up on a 24-hour schedule so snow plow drivers will be on the road continually until the snow has been cleared.