Some relief for snow-battered northern Indiana

‘Snow machine’ slows, plows make progress

December 14, 2010

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Drivers try to make it through the heavy snow on U.S. 30 near Wanatah, In., on Monday. (Photo submitted by Mike McArdle)

Lake-effect snow is letting up a bit in northern Indiana this morning, allowing for road crews to catch up with plowing to make the roadways safe enough to drive on. 

Unlike yesterday, all highways in Northwest Indiana are open this morning, although some are still snow-packed.

Snow continues to fall a bit in LaPorte and St. Joseph counties near South Bend, although not at Monday’s rate.

Indiana Department of Transportation has about 150 snow plow drivers out.

“When the lake-effect snow machine kind of turns off it allows us to kind of get a handle on things and make some progress,” INDOT spokesman Jim Pinkerton said. “That’s what we’re hoping we’ll feature through the course of the day that the lake-effect show will subside a little bit and we can get out there and hit the roads hard.”

Officials will still have to deal with digging out abandoned vehicles left on roadways by dozens of stranded drivers.Indiana state police officials say they are dealing with far fewer calls but continue to urge caution while driving.

Meanwhile, things a getting back to normal a bit for a firefighters near Wanatah, Ind., just east of Valparaiso.

 “We had about 30 people stay at the fire station [Sunday] night,” firefighter Eric Zak said Monday. “They either slid off the road or the roads closed.”

Zak says his department worked over time to rescue motorists on U.S. 30 in Wanatah, where icy roads, huge snow drifts and white-out conditions made it impossible to drive.

“This is the worst I’ve seen it,” Zak said.

Zak said those who were rescued, including a couple from North Dakota and children, are now being housed at the Wanatah Town Hall.

So far, about 16 inches of snow has fallen in LaPorte County, with winds causing snow drifts up to 6-feet deep. Snow plow drivers have been working 12 hour shifts in a five-county area to keep clear the roads.

Driving on Interstate 94 and the Indiana Toll Road is better, but Indiana state police urge caution.

State police spokesman Sgt. Dwayne Dillahunty said road conditions are better in Lake County, but some spots remain covered with ice, adding that motorists are wise to drive slow.

“They are pretty consistent with ice on I-65 and I-80/94 [in Lake County, Ind.]. You have to be extra-defensive and mindful of the ice that you can see and that you cannot see.”

Some school districts in Northern Indiana and southwest Michigan remain closed.

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