Porter County lifting local emergency declaration
BY AMY LAVALLEY Post-Tribune correspondent January 6, 2014 2:26PM
Updated: January 7, 2014 8:28AM
VALPARAISO — The Porter County Board of Commissioners is lifting the county’s state of emergency, banning all but emergency traffic on county roads, as of 6 a.m. Tuesday.
County offices will open for business at 10 a.m. as well.
School corporations throughout the county will remain closed for another day, however. Valparaiso Superintendent Michael Berta doesn’t know the last time Valparaiso cancelled school for two consecutive days, nor could he recall that for Portage, where he previously served as superintendent.
“It’s very unusual, due to the weather pattern,” he said, noting the combination of heavy snow, arctic cold and drifting snow.
Tuesday’s sub-zero temperatures, as well as the ongoing road clearing and the state of emergency on county roads played a role in the decision, as did the time it takes to clear school lots, and the fact that some of the school corporation’s crew couldn’t make it into town to get the task done.
“There was just no way we were going to be able to be ready to hold classes (Tuesday),” Berta said.
He received an email Sunday from the Indiana Department of Education and Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz stating that because of winter weather conditions across the state, school corporations would be able to file a waiver for Monday’s missed school day, so they may not have to make it up.
Given Tuesday’s weather, Berta hopes to seek a waiver for that day, too.
“I do intend to file for the Valparaiso schools and hopefully have approval by the state not to make up one or both of these days,” he said.
Sgt. Larry LaFlower, public information officer for the Porter County Sheriff’s Department, said the roads most clogged with stranded cars were: Ind. 8; Division Road; County Roads 700 North and 500 North; and Ind. 130 in Union Township.
“Those are the main ones we’ve been dealing with,” he said Monday, adding the National Guard helped rescue several people on Ind. 8 Sunday night and into Monday.
NIPSCO crews in a front-end loader and a plow truck also assisted on Division Road to respond to reports of gas leaks, LaFlower said, though no major incidents have been reported because of the storm.
Shifting winds — and the snow they bring with them — have been another matter, “so it’s a mess,” he said.
Russell Shirley, director of Porter County Emergency Management, said he’s getting lots of calls from people who want to know if they can go back to work yet, or at least go on county roads. “Obviously, winds are still blowing and snow is still drifting,” he said.
Those in and around Valparaiso can seek warmth and shelter at Valparaiso’s Harre Union, 1509 Chapel Drive, on the VU campus. People may stay there until at least midnight.
In cases where people have nowhere to go to escape this dangerous cold, or if they’re unable to travel, please call on Valparaiso Police Department at 219-462-2135 or the Valparaiso Fire Department at 219-462-8325 during business hours. After business hours, heat emergencies may be directed to 911.
Post-Tribune correspondent James D. Wolf Jr. contributed to this story.