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Few brave the chilll in Chesterton

Calumet Road Chestertwas deserted Monday morning. | John Robbins/For Post-Tribune

Calumet Road in Chesterton was deserted on Monday morning. | John Robbins/For the Post-Tribune

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Updated: January 7, 2014 8:28AM



CHESTERTON — Porter County’s state of emergency, due to subzero temperatures and blowing snow, kept most people indoors Monday — but not everyone.

Chesterton’s streets were deserted under clear skies.

Only a few hardy souls are out and about, not quite, “business as usual”, but as close to it as could be expected given the conditions.

“No papers, no donuts, but hot coffee,” said Cristina Root, counter clerk at the Chesterton Marathon on South Calumet, in Chesterton. She opened earlier than usual this Monday morning, at 4 a.m. instead of 5 a.m., but only because her husband was driving.

“There’s been a handful of customers,” said Root, “but it’s been pretty slow all day. No one can get out and do anything. The roads are closed for a reason.”

That didn’t stop several shoppers from stopping, though.

Lauren Barner, “one of the regulars,” according to Root, stopped by to put gas in her car and get her morning fix of Arizona iced tea on the way to her job at LA Tan. Her car started right up, after a small hesitation, and she only spent five minutes shoveling. “It was too cold to care to do much more,” said Barner.

Another regular stopped by for the essentials — cigarettes, toilet paper, a can of cat food for her dog and conversation and jokes with Root.

“These guys are always open,” said Tina, who preferred her last name not be used since she’s trying to quit smoking.

Michele Hopkins, co-owner of the Hopkins Ace Hardware store on South Calumet in Chesterton, was ready and waiting for customers, along with cashier Mary Wallen. “She’s the only employee to show up on time,” joked Hopkins.

They had just received a delivery of supplies, including snowblowers, which her husband, Mark, was helping unload.

A customer had just come in to pick up a propane tank but most of the activity had been answering the phone.

“People calling to see if we’re open, if we have heaters, or snow shovels or sleds. We’re out of sleds,” said Hopkins. They sold a lot of sleds Thursday in anticipation of the snow, she said.

Hopkins is happy not to have too many customers — it means no emergencies. “I hope people would stay in if they can.”

An emergency of sorts brought Chesterton Fire Chief Mike Orlich in to the hardware store — to pick up a part for a balky toilet.

Orlich said that the fire department hasn’t received many fire related calls, though “weather has affected our response time.”

While there, Orlich talks a little shop with Emerson Delaney, manager of the hardware store and Chesterton town council member, who is busy assembling the new load of snow blowers.

Both men are profuse in their praise of the street department snowplow drivers who had been clearing the streets all night long.

Richard Wood, owner of the Auto Clinic in Chesterton, hasn’t been answering calls yet. “Can’t get to the customers anyway,” said Wood, busy clearing his lot for an expected rush of customers later in the day.

Of course the Post Office is open, and Malcolm Bell was there at 6:30 a.m. helping get it ready for opening by shoveling the snow from the lot and walks.

Bell had no trouble getting in to Chesterton from Gary, even though the interstate was supposed to be closed. “There were just a few other cars out there, but the road (I-80/94) was pretty well cleared,” Bell said.

Zack Sykes was one of only five clerks able to get to the post office on Monday, so he was busy sorting the mail for the carriers. “Even though the roads are closed the mail is still going to be delivered today,” said Sykes. He said they are trying to have the mail carriers finish their routes by 4 p.m. Monday for their safety.

Danny Opyt, owner of Danny O’s Bar and Grill was planning on opening for lunch. The cook had just walked in and Opyt was making calls to his other employees to see if they could make it in.

Some snowplow operators were taking some downtime at Danny O’s after having been out all night. Opyt turned to one, J. P. Wilson, asking him if he could help get one of his staff dug out. Wilson seemed doubtful.

“I will be open at 11,” Opyt said, “ even if I have to serve myself.”



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