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Weather Updates

Storm slams lakefront; more help headed east from NWI

Updated: December 1, 2012 4:36PM



Motorists jammed the parking lot at the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk Park Tuesday as nature lovers came to glimpse the 12- to 15-foot waves crashing into the shore.

Fueled by the remnants of the Northeast’s superstorm, the waves seemingly rose up relentlessly from the north.

Winds as high as 50 mph battered Northwest Indiana, triggering a sandstorm that closed a Gary charter school and caused power outages.

Wave watching became the sport of choice for many.

“This is once in a lifetime,” said Carol Julian, of Wheeler, who came to the Portage park with her husband, Cecil Julian. The couple planned to camp at Indiana Dunes State Park, but postponed their trip when the winds began gusting.

Instead, they watched the lake. “We were behind the pavilion at Dunes State Park for about four hours. We saw them coming up like a mountain,” said Carol Julian of the massive waves.

Indiana Dunes National Park Service ranger Jean-Pierre Anderson said he worried about erosion coming in the wake of the wave-bashing. “The most damage could be the loss of sand,” he said.

Lisa Robinson, of Valparaiso, and her son, Kyle, came to glimpse the waves, too. “Oh wow,” she said. “When you go out there, you can’t stand up, but it’s so beautiful.”

Farther west in Gary’s Marquette Park, motorists plowed through sand that covered the intersection of Oak Avenue and Montgomery Street.

School closes

Stinging, blowing sand along Lake Michigan led officials at the Charter School of the Dunes on Miller’s lakefront to cancel school Tuesday.

“With the modulars in the back, it wasn’t safe for kids,” said Principal Christine Pepa. “It’s bad out here, it’s a sandstorm. It almost looks like a snowstorm.”

“It was the first time I ever called school because of sand,” said Pepa. The school sits on the northern edge of Lake Street along Lake Michigan and classrooms are housed in individual portable units.

Pepa said it’s too early to tell if the winds will force the closure of school Wednesday. “It all depends on the weather. We have a recording system in place to notify parents.”

All wasn’t lost, however. Pepa said a staffer ventured toward the shore and recorded Mother Nature’s wrath. “We’ll use it in science and environmental classes,” she said.

Power out

The Northern Indiana Public Service Co. reported crews were working to restore power to those customers affected by damaging winds, downed trees and broken power lines.

At its peak, nearly 6,000 customers were without electric service, primarily in northern Porter and northern La Porte counties. By evening, the number dropped to about 700.

Red Cross ready

Bobbi Petru, the executive director of the LaPorte-Porter chapter of the Red Cross, said officials are monitoring the situation, in terms of what’s happening on the lake and power outages.

“We’re looking anything affecting traffic,” Petru said. “Also, Michigan City closed down Washington Park as a prevention, so people don’t get hurt walking out there.”

Petru said they haven’t had to open any emergency shelters at this time.

She said several teams are preparing to possibly be assigned to help East Coast storm victims if necessary.

“We will send out people to help as we find out their needs,” Petru said. “It’s a three-week commitment.”

Ambulances head east

Prompt Ambulance service is readying a possible second deployment to assist in relief efforts along the East Coast.

“We got a call a few hours ago … they are looking at getting a second deployment,” said Ronald Donahue, communications director for Prompt on Tuesday afternoon. Donahue said FEMA has reached out across the country to see what additional personnel and equipment are available. A request to deploy could come as soon as Tuesday or as late at Wednesday, he said.

Donahue said Prompt can spare another four ambulances and eight personnel without impacting service to the many local communities for which it provides 911 ambulance service.

“We have to make sure things are covered here. The weather seems like it’s getting bad,” he said.

Prompt provided a first team of responders that included 15 crew members, seven ambulances and one support vehicle. The team arrived at Fort Dix, N.J., Monday afternoon.

“I have talked to the crews … the roads are pretty bad with flooding and debris,” Donahue said. Team members have been assisting with hospital evacuations and routine 911 calls.

The storm has taken out a large number of cell phone towers in the New York area making communication with the team difficult, he said. Team members are touching base back home with sporadic texts and emails when they are in areas with some service.

“Hopefully they get some of that restored,” Donahue said.



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