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High winds, bitter cold to follow snow

January 21, 2019

MICHIGAN CITY — Area residents were busy clearing snow after the first wave of a weekend double whammy of winter passed without major problems in La Porte County, but weather watchers warn the worst was yet to come.

The winter storm, dubbed Harper, left 2-4 inches of snow across most of the county by Saturday afternoon – far less than the 8-12 inches some forecasts had called for – and was expected to clear the area by late evening. But lake effect snow, high winds and plummeting temperatures are expected in its wake, according to the National Weather Service.

No major accidents were reported as of Saturday afternoon, as motorists appeared to follow cautionary reports and stay off the roads, though area grocery stores were packed Friday night with shoppers stocking up for the weekend.

The county was under a travel advisory until Saturday night due to road conditions, according to La Porte County Emergency Management. It was not known at press time if that would be extended.

NIPSCO reported no power outages in La Porte County as of Saturday afternoon, and only scattered minor outages across its service area.

However, more than 1,000 flights had been canceled at Chicago airports as of Saturday afternoon, and anyone flying out Sunday was warned to contact their airline before heading to the airport.

Due to anticipated frigid temperatures Monday, the South Shore Line was replacing several trains with buses between South Bend and Carroll Avenue. That included westbound trains 6, 14, 18, 20, and 22; and eastbound trains 403, 7, 9, 11, 17, and 19. Westbound trains 422 and 424; and eastbound train 401 are canceled. On Tuesday, westbound trains 6 and 14; and eastbound train 403 will be replaced by buses; and eastbound train 401 is canceled.

Most high school sporting events in the area were canceled on Saturday, including the PCC boys basketball tournament, which was rescheduled for Monday and Tuesday.

“The first portion of the forecast worked out with the snow,” the NWS forecast discussion reported. But, “snow associated with our southern stream system is continuing northward” and was expected to overspread the area Saturday along with strong winds.

“Wind gusts will strengthen into the 25 to 35 mph range, so once we get additional snow accumulations, we’ll see the blowing and drifting become more of an issue for travel,” according to NWS.

Then the temps bottom out.

“With some brief clearing in the wake of the low, expect low temps into the single digits by early Sunday morning, with wind chills from 0 to 10-below.”

On Sunday, high pressure covered the area, and with a northeast flow across Lake Michigan and lingering moisture, a lake effect band developed early Sunday afternoon, impacting Chicago and far Northwest Indiana before moving eastward into La Porte County.

Accumulations of 2-6 inches were expected in the Chicago area, and Porter and Lake counties in Indiana; with only 1-2 inches expected in La Porte County. But temperatures won’t get out of the mid-teens, and wind chills will be in the single digits above zero during the afternoon.

There was a 70 percent chance of snow in the Michigan City area though late Sunday.

“The real horror will take place as skies clear out Sunday night into Monday morning away from Lake Michigan,” the weather service said. “With a fresh snowpack and light winds beneath high pressure, expect that it will get extraordinarily cold.”

Low temperatures by Monday morning will drop into the single digits below zero. Winds will be light, but could be enough to bring wind chills into the -10 to -15 range. Monday’s highs will range from 10-16 by the afternoon, with wind chills around or just below zero.

Monday night lows will also fall into the single digits and low teens, with wind chills of 0 to -10 through early Tuesday. More snow could develop Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday evening, though models vary greatly in terms of the intensity, the weather service reports.

Highs will rebound into the mid-upper 30s Tuesday afternoon, bringing a 70 percent chance of a rain/snow mix during the afternoon and evening hours before shifting to snow overnight. There may be lake effect snow during the afternoon Wednesday.

Highs will be in the upper 20s and 30s the rest of the week, with more lake effect snow possible on Friday, before another shot of frigid air hits next weekend, with the potential for sub-zero temperatures.

“Long story short, it looks like we’ll see another shot of very cold air” towards the end of the week, according to the weather service.

—From staff reports

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