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Freezing makes Indiana roads icy, dangerous

The Indiana Department of Transportation reopened most of I-65 between U.S. 30 in Merrillville and Lafayette Tuesday, on the second day of a deep freeze that followed a major snowstorm.
January 7, 2014 3:41:46 PM PST
Indiana entered its second day of a deep freeze Tuesday with temperatures at least 10 below zero across the state's northern half.

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Emergency vehicles stopped to help out motorists who have spun out or gotten into a fender bender. Other vehicles have been left abandoned and buried under snow on the side of the road.

Many truckers have no choice but to drive in these conditions. Or at least try to drive. Jim Sears has been stuck for two days in a Hobart parking lot. His truck won't start. He's in good company. About a dozen other trucks are in the parking lot in the same situation. Tm Kinman has a load of mail headed to North Carolina. It will not get there on time. He's been stuck there for two days despite an emergency crew working to get it started.

The Indiana Department of Transportation reopened most of I-65 between U.S. 30 in Merrillville and Lafayette Tuesday, on the second day of a deep freeze that followed a major snowstorm.

Northbound I-65 between exit 76 in northern Bartholomew County and exit 95 in Johnson County remains closed because of icy conditions and will remain closed at least until later Tuesday, INDOT said.

INDOT is asking the public to refrain from any non-emergency travel through Wednesday.

Road salt is not as effective on icy roadways, INDOT said, and is using other methods to melt ice and gain traction on road surfaces, such as chemical anti-icing agents and abrasives, but the frigid weather is hindering these efforts as well. Dangerously icy conditions will not likely improve across northwest Indiana until temperatures rise Wednesday

.

"Hard-pack snow and ice should be expected on all northwest Indiana roads, including I-65 and I-94, causing dangerously icy conditions. In these subzero temperatures, road salt is not as effective on icy roadways. INDOT is using other methods to melt ice and gain traction on road surfaces, such as chemical anti-icing agents and abrasives, but the frigid weather is hindering these efforts as well," an INDOT release read.

Most school districts across the state remained closed as wind chills reached to about 35 below zero.

Gov. Mike Pence urged Hoosiers on Monday not to travel, warning that they faced "real peril" if they became stranded. Temperatures reached 13 below zero Tuesday in Indianapolis, while Fort Wayne and South Bend were at 12 below. Evansville reached 1 below zero.

The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District has reported weather-related delays on the South Shore Line. The day's first train, 102, arrived at Millennium Station in Chicago 58 minutes late. Trains continue to be late due to speed restrictions and mechanical problems.

In other parts of Indiana, the weather situation was similar. The frigid temperatures led the Indiana General Assembly to postpone the start of its 2014 session, which had been set for Monday.

Pence signed an executive order on Monday declaring a state of emergency in 29 counties: Clinton, Delaware, Elkhart, Fulton, Grant, Howard, Jasper, Kosciusko, LaGrange, Lake, LaPorte, Madison, Marshall, Montgomery, Newton, Noble, Porter, Pulaski, Rush, St. Joseph, Starke, Steuben, Sullivan, Tipton, Vermillion, Vigo, Wabash, White and Whitley.

Lake County Commission President Michael Repay, D-Hammond, said a travel watch will remain in effect, meaning roadway conditions remain threatening. All Lake County buildings reopened for business Tuesday.

Porter County's state of emergency expired at 6 a.m. Tuesday and government offices reopened at 10 a.m., according to Porter County Sgt. Larry LaFlower.

"A majority of the community adhered to the ban, so it's been a lot easier to get the roads cleared," LaFlower said. "But there are several subdivisions that haven't seen plows yet and there are a lot of cars that were abandoned in the road that we have to tow, so we have a long way to go."

LaPorte County offices will be closed for the weather. I-94 and I-65 had been closed since an unrelenting snowstorm, fueled by high winds, moved into the region Sunday. By Monday morning, crews had piled snow on some ramps to make sure cars did not flout the warning. It didn't always work.

"Drivers have been caught going around barricades on closed interstates, like I-94 and I-65," an INDOT press release noted. "This is extremely dangerous. They are endangering themselves and the emergency personnel tasked with rescuing these potentially stranded drivers. Dozens of people have already been rescued from impassable roadways during the past 24 hours."

Commuters looking for another way to reach Chicago were out of luck, as the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District canceled all South Shore rail line service for Monday.

Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Matt Deitchley said crews were working across the 13-county northwest Indiana district to remove drifting and blowing snow, an effort now compounded by brittle, record-low temperatures hitting 15 degrees below zero.

Indiana National Guard troops have been busy throughout the state, but highway assistance teams in Gary and Valparaiso are helping out however they can, according to spokesperson Lt. Col. Cathy Van Bree.

"They're helping stranded motorists, getting people to warming shelters, and making medical center runs, such as getting people to and from dialysis treatments," Van Bree said. "That's the whole goal, prevent it from becoming an emergency situation."

The Associated Press and Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.


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