Storms knock out power to 40,000
La PORTE COUNTY – The brunt of Monday’s snow missed La Porte County, but what snow did fall combined with strong winds to knock out power to thousands of NIPSCO customers, some of whom had to wait more than 36 hours to get the lights – and heat – back on.
The winter storm “caused significant damage and outages from heavy snowfall and winds in excess of 45 mph,” according to a statement from NIPSCO. “Several hundred cases of downed lines, broken poles and equipment were reported and identified.”
In total, more than 40,000 electric customers were affected, with the hardest hit areas being Crown Point, with 5,415 customers without power; and Hobart with 2,011. At the height of the storm, NIPSCO reported 980 outages in La Porte, 800 in Michigan City and 800 in Westville.
As of 7 p.m. Tuesday, NIPSCO said more than 99 of those customers had power restored, while less than 200 remained without power – most in Porter and Lake counties. Fewer than five customers remained without power in La Porte and Wanatah combined, while all Michigan City and Westville power had been restored earlier.
Westville residents without heat on Monday were invited to the Town Hall, which was running on generator power, to keep warm. Power was off at the Town Hall and Police Department for about four hours.
In Michigan City, warming centers included the MC Police Station, Fire Administration Building, Michigan City Senior Center, City Hall, Michigan City Public Library and Keys to Hope Community Resource Center.
In La Porte, residents were advised to go to La Porte Hospital, Fire Station 2, City Hall, the La Porte Civic Auditorium or the La Porte County Government Center.
Virtually all schools in the county were closed on Monday, including Michigan City Area Schools, La Porte Community Schools and New Prairie, Westville, South Central and Tri-Township schools. Many used the day as a E-learning day, with students using their computers to get lessons.
NIPSCO employees worked around-the-clock to respond to the damage, with additional resources in the emergency command center focusing on power restoration, the utility said. Additional outside crews and resources were also called in.
NIPSCO estimated a majority of remaining affected customers would be restored by Tuesday night, “though some individual customers may take longer.” Full power restoration in Michigan City, La Porte and Westville, originally estimated for midnight Tuesday, was mostly completed much earlier, with only a handful of customers waiting to be restored as of Tuesday evening.
NIPSCO explained the restoration process: “Following assessment of damage, large transmission and distribution lines that supply electricity to large numbers of customers in large geographic areas – including critical customers such as hospitals and emergency response – are repaired first.
“Repairs to other lines that serve smaller groups of customers can’t be made until the larger lines feeding electricity to those areas are repaired,” the utility said.
When crews work on damaged trees, they focus on repairs critical to utility facilities and restoring power, and do not clean up or remove branches and debris. Residents should contact local municipal officials for storm debris disposal.
The utility warned customers:
• Not to use ovens, gas ranges or grills to heat a home.
• Never use a generator inside your home, basement, garage or other enclosed or partially enclosed areas.
• Consider a local warming shelter.
• Check on neighbors, particularly seniors or those who may be disabled
• Avoid downed power lines, damaged poles or other hazardous situations. Every downed wire should be treated as though it is a live wire.
The Michigan City Fire Department responded to one call of high carbon monoxide levels, where the homeowner said the oven had been running for about four hours. No injuries were reported.
For more information on restoration efforts, visit NIPSCO.com/Out. You can also check Facebook.com/NIPSCO or Twitter.com/NIPSCO for updates; or sign up at NIPSCO.com/Alerts for updates via text, email or phone.
— From staff reports
Area police departments responded to numerous slide-offs, accidents and other weather-related incidents during the storm on Monday.
In Michigan City, from Sunday into Monday, the Police Department responded to six accidents and nine disabled vehicle calls in which police assisted motorists after slide-offs from the roadway or because of poor driving conditions. There were also a couple of calls regarding downed trees.
La Porte Police responded to three “reportable” accidents Monday, two of which were weather-related. There were also a few “non-reportable accidents,” but it was unknown if they were caused by the storm.
In Westville, police reported “a handful of slide offs,” but no injuries. There was also a property damage accident at State Road 2 and CR-900W in which a pickup pulling a trailer slid off the road and got caught in a guide wire for a NIPSCO pole. Trees were also reported down, but the Street Department was able to clear them quickly.
The La Porte County Sheriff’s Department responded to several incidents of trees down and other storm-related calls, including one at State Road 39 and Severs Road, where snow had obstructed stoplights. A crew from The Tree Mann helped clear the snow from the lights, which had not been visible to motorists.
Snow not the major issue
While snowfall totals were not large for the first major storm of the season, it was the temperature (hovering around freezing) and strong winds that were bigger problems. The temperature meant a heavy, wet snow that clung to branches and power lines; and winds gusting to 45 mph or more that brought many of them down.
The National Weather Service reported the highest snowfall totals in the area included:
• Michigan City – 4 inches
• La Porte – 3 inches
• New Carlisle – 3 inches
• Walkerton – 2 inches
Many areas to the south and east saw only trace amounts. Some lake effect snow was expected to continue overnight Tuesday, with up to an inch of accumulation in some areas, but the bigger problem will be the cold. After a low of 21 Tuesday night, temps were only expected to reach 28 on Wednesday, according to the Weather Service.
After a low of 24 Wednesday night, temperatures will rebound, reaching 36 on Thursday. Friday should reach 41 and Saturday 46, but there is a 20 percent chance of rain late Friday and an 80 percent chance on Saturday.