Indiana Region Braces for Possible Record-Breaking Arctic Blast

Air temperatures from zero to 20 degrees below, with wind chills of 20 to 55 degrees below, are possible into early Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.

by The Times, Munster, Ind. / January 30, 2019
AP/Matt Fritz

(TNS) - Break out the long johns and brace yourselves for one cold day.

All-time record-breaking low temperatures started late Tuesday and will stretch into early Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.

Air temperatures from zero to 20 degrees below, with wind chills of 20 to 55 degrees below, are possible into early Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.

Frigid temperatures Tuesday caused a water main break in Schererville that turned a nearby street into a sheet of ice and made repair crews labor for hours in the cold.

A little before noon Tuesday, Jeff Huet, director of public works for Schererville, saw water gushing from a water main break on Burr Street, about 50 feet from the Erie-Lackawanna bike trail crossing.

“When steel contracts in cold weather it puts pressure on the pipes,” Huet said. “That's why there's so many pipe breaks in this type of weather.”

Burr Street northbound and southbound lanes were closed between 75th Avenue and 73rd Avenue as repairs were underway, Huet said. Crews had to scrape and salt that area of Burr Street before it could be reopened, according to Huet.

Air temperatures in Northwest Indiana on Wednesday morning are set to start out around minus 23 degrees and rise only to minus 13 or 14 degrees, breaking the record "high" in Chicago of minus 11. Wind chills during the day Wednesday could range from 40 to 55 degrees below.

In those conditions, frostbite on exposed skin can occur in as little as five minutes. Anyone heading out should wear layers, hats, facecovers, gloves and waterproof boots.

Bring pets inside, and know the signs of hypothermia and frostbite, forecasters said.

Forecasters warned the wind chill would be "potentially life-threatening." Morning air temperatures in Northwest Indiana could be record-breaking.

A wind chill warning started to be in effect from 6 p.m. Tuesday and will last until noon Thursday for Northwest Indiana.

Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties were under a travel advisory watch on Tuesday, in which the Indiana Department of Homeland Security said only essential travel was recommended.

The Porter County Highway Department will only be responding to emergencies Wednesday, according to a news release.

The travel advisory watch will likely continue through Wednesday. A state of emergency has not been declared for Northwest Indiana as of Tuesday evening, Paul Petrie, Lake County Emergency Management Agency deputy director, said. In the case that a state of emergency is declared, commuters would be advised to refrain from all travel.

At 5 p.m. Tuesday the Indiana Department of Transportation pulled its snow plows off of the road out of concern for drivers' safety, Petrie said. There will be no plows on state roads Wednesday; however, there will be some on interstates, Petrie said.

Snow isn't forecasted to hit the Region again until Thursday, when there may be some accumulation in the evening.

Officials warned residents to avoid going outdoors, if possible.

"Ensure that if you have to go out, bring plenty of blankets, water, something to eat and have a full tank of gas," Petrie said.

Map: Local Warming Centers

Communities in the Region may be offering warming centers due to the frigid temperatures. These locations have been used in the past as warming centers, but be sure to call ahead to verify hours. Are we missing a location? Is a listed location no longer valid? Email our editors at newstips@nwi.com.

Residents should take precautions ahead of the cold, by clearing snow away from gas meters and exhaust or fresh air vents for appliances, officials said.

Cars should be filled with gas and tire pressures checked, because cold air can impact pressure levels.

State police in Illinois and Indiana planned to add extra patrols because of the cold.

"This is extreme cold, which makes it imperative that people call for help if they find themselves in a situation where their car might not be working or in an accident," said Indiana State Police Sgt. Ted Bohner, whose district covers the Indiana Toll Road. "It can get deadly quick with the cold weather being forecasted."

If you spot a stalled vehicle with someone inside, call 911, police said.

The weather service issued a flood warning for the Kankakee River at Shelby in Lake and Newton counties, warning ice jams can cause rapid fluctuations in water levels. Residents in low-lying areas should remain alert for possible flooding.

Many schools and offices closed Tuesday and will remain closed Wednesday and Thursday in preparation for the cold. Hobart Mayor Brian Snedecor issued a travel advisory from 1 a.m. Wednesday to noon Thursday, calling on residents to avoid all nonessential travel because of the frigid conditions.

NIPSCO said its system was operating normally. In the event of service-related issues, customers should call 800-464-7726.

Residents who find themselves in potentially life-threatening emergencies should call 911, Lake County 911 said. Nonemergency callers should dial 219-660-0000 in Lake County or 219-322-5000 in Cedar Lake and Schererville.

For information on travel conditions in Indiana, call 800-261-7623.

Warming shelter availability varies by community. Check the map attached to this story at nwi.com or call city or town halls or township trustees for more information.

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