Storm rakes region; thousands lose power
By Carole Carlson email@example.com/648-3154 July 24, 2012 9:14AM
Adam Kellogg, of Chesterton, gestures while looking taking a closer look at the damage his car sustained after high winds toppled a tree at the corner of Institute and Michigan in Valparaiso Tuesday July 24, 2012. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
Cooling center update
With temperatures expected to soar Wednesday, Gary has partnered with Gary Community School Corp., the Calumet Township Trustee’s Office and NIPSCO to set up cooling centers for residents affected by power outages. The following sites will be open at 7 a.m. Wednesday through noon Thursday:
West Side High School, 9th and Gerry
Gary Area Career Center, 1800 E. 35th Ave.
Calumet Township Trustee’s Multi-Purpose Center, 1900 W. 41st Ave.
The following centers also will be open:
Public Safety Facility, 555 Polk St., 24 hours
Borman Square Pavilion, 750 Madison St., 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday
NIPSCO help available
NIPSCO representatives will be at the Merrillville Town Hall from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday to answer customer’s questions in the wake of the power outage that gripped the region as a result of Tuesday’s short but severe storm, leaving tens of thousands of residents still without power Tuesday night.
“Any resident who stops in, we’ll have water, snacks and fruit for them,” said Larry Graham, a spokesman for Merrillville-based Northern Indiana Public Service Co.
Eddie Melton, also a NIPSCO representative, told council members the utility was aware the town hall, at 7820 Broadway, is serving as a cooling shelter and decided to bring its customer service representatives to the centrally located site to answer questions from any of its customers affected by the storm.
Here are other cooling center options in the region:
Highland has opened a cooling center at Lincoln Center, 2450 Lincoln St.
The Griffith Town Council has opened three cooling centers. The centers will remain open until NIPSCO has restored power.
Below are the listed cooling centers:
North Fire Station, 1601 N. Indiana (Ridge Road and Indiana)
Franklin Center, Room 107, 211 N. Griffith Blvd.
Town Hall (lower level), 111 N. Broad St.
The City of Valparaiso has partnered with a number of community organizations to offer cooling centers to help keep the city safe:
Valparaiso University, Harre Union, 1509 Chapel Drive., open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday; Christopher Center Library, 1410 Chapel Drive, see http://library.valpo.edu/hours.html for hours.
Valparaiso YMCA, 1201 Cumberland Crossing , open 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, 12:30 to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Porter County Public Library, Valparaiso branch, 103 Jefferson St., open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
Vale Park Enrichment Center at Banta, 605 Beech St., open 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church, 1511 LaPorte Ave., open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day.
Ivy Tech Community College Northwest Valparaiso Campus, 3100 Ivy Tech Drive, 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, through July 29; then 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday from July 30 to Aug. 10.
The Purdue Calumet campus in Hammond experienced a power outage in several buildings at the southern portion of campus following Tuesday’s storm.
Power has been restored throughout campus. However, it was decided to relocate all classes scheduled Tuesday in the two buildings affected by the power outage, Porter Hall and the Student Union & Library.
Those buildings will remain closed the remainder of Tuesday. Classes scheduled in those buildings have been reassigned to other campus locations the rest of Tuesday only.
Class relocations are posted at the following link published on http://webs.purduecal.edu/acadaffrs/class-relocations-july-24-2012/
Updated: August 26, 2012 6:11AM
Northwest Indiana residents are slowly recovering from widespread power outages Tuesday triggered by what NIPSCO called the year’s biggest storm.
The massive damage forced NIPSCO to bring in additional crews from Missouri, Wisconsin and Ohio to assist with repairing the damage and restoring power.
By late Tuesday afternoon, NIPSCO reported 23,000 customers without power. In all, more than 77,000 customers were affected.
Lake and Porter counties were hardest hit by the damaging winds and rain that crossed northern Indiana early Tuesday, leaving behind downed trees, snapped electric poles and wires.
The repair work will take the next few days, officials said. As efforts continue to restore power, more information on community-specific estimated restoration times will be available at www.nipsco.com.
Rush hour traffic on U.S. 30 in Merrillville slogged along for hours after high winds ripped the corrugated metal roof off a building leased by CarQuest auto parts and Affordable Fireworks, just west of Broadway.
The roof flew into a NIPSCO pole, shearing it off while knocking out power to U.S. 30 traffic signals and businesses.
On U.S. 30, stoplights remained out as of 3:30 p.m. An INDOT spokesman did not have a total number of lights out, nor was he able to predict when the traffic signals would resume operations, but at 3:30 p.m., said it would “hopefully” be within a few hours. Until the signals’ power is restored, drivers were to treat any traffic light as an all-way stop, he said.
Not knowing when power would return was a common theme throughout the area.
“I know there are some sporadic outages around south county, around Kouts, that got hit pretty hard,” said David James, assistant highway supervisor for the Porter County Highway Department. “We’re going to have some closed yet, because of NIPSCO... they’re just swamped.”
Charlie Talley, a maintenance worker for the Merrillville Texas Corral restaurant, west of CarQuest, said the commotion sounded like “a giant boom.” He said he saw wires crashing against each other and arcing, sending sparks into the air. When he came around to the front of his building, he saw the NIPSCO pole knocked down and the roof ripped off.
Talley and Texas Corral manager Eric Ingram looked on as NIPSCO crews began repairs.
Keith Wooldridge, NIPSCO senior vice president for field operations, said the crews installed a switching device into a 12,000-volt power line to patch service to businesses. “We’re trying to ground it all and make it safe,” he said.
Joe Bruscemi, a CarQuest employee, said he arrived at work about 7 a.m. and saw the roof on the ground and the power lines sparking. He said rain was pouring through the ceiling of the auto parts store.
Meanwhile in Griffith, a large tree in Central Park fell near the war memorial, just missing an Army tank. Griffith Park Department crews cleaned up the debris.
Fair opening delayed
In Valparaiso, the storm knocked power out at the Porter County Courthouse and at the Porter County Fair.
Fair manager Kevin Hannon said the storm rolled through about 7:30 a.m., about a half-hour before the 8 a.m. swine show.
“We were out of power for roughly three hours,” he said. “We made our first call to delay opening the fair until 5 p.m., then 15 minutes later the power came on. We did a 180 and went back to business as usual.”
Hannon said the swine show started about 9:30 a.m. with the help of backup generators.
By noon, he said crowds were beginning to filter and vendors were opening. “It’s been a hectic `,” he said.
At the Porter County Courthouse, power returned about noon. Judges had cancelled morning criminal calls and other hearings were cancelled.
The National Softball Association’s Girls Fast Pitch “B” World Series tournament games had delays of two and four hours, but all the games continued Tuesday, said Jason Sands, director of sports development for the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority.
Valparaiso’s farmer’s market opened as usual but with fewer vendors. One of the market’s produce vendors was rushed to the hospital because as she was putting up her tent, one of the barricade signs for the market blew into her and sliced her leg.
At Wicker Park in Highland, several trees were uprooted or snapped off by the high winds.
In Gary, power outages affected nearly 9,000 residents. There were also outages to several fire stations as well as fallen trees resulting in blocked streets. The General Services Department worked to assist with storm clean-up, and the Gary Police Department placed extra officers on the streets to patrol impacted areas.
About 9,500 Kankakee Valley REMC members were without power, down from 15,000 when the storm hit earlier in the morning, the cooperative said on its website.
Five of Kankakee Valley REMC’s substations were without power as a result of failure of the transmission feed.
Earlier Tuesday, the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District suspended service because of overhead wire damage near Calumet Avenue in Hammond. NICTD reported that a NIPSCO static wire fell onto a Track 1 overhead wire damaging the circuit.
Commuter service resumed by midmorning.
The Indiana Department of Transportation said workers also responded to signal outage emergencies across the region.
Correspondents James Wolf and Karen Caffarini contributed to this report.