WATCH NOW: More travel hazards ahead after winter storm causes interstate shutdowns | Jasper County News

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Northwest Indiana communities saw as much as 9 inches of accumulation after a winter storm left another hefty coating of snow Thursday into early Friday. 

The majority of the Region’s snow totals ranged from 5 to 7 inches, said Chief Meteorologist Matt Holiner, of Lee Enterprises. The highest totals recorded include 8 inches in Crown Point and Rensselaer. Newton County had the highest reported total with 9 inches of snow recorded as of Friday morning. 

The Region still isn’t out of the woods yet when it comes to weather hazards. A winter weather advisory remains in effect until 9 a.m. Saturday for Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties. 

Friday afternoon is bringing a cold front with gusty winds and moderate snow showers are predicted from 8 p.m. to midnight. 

“Additional snow accumulation will be minimal,” Holiner said. “The bigger concern is the wind. With gusts around 35 mph, all the fresh snow that’s already on the ground will be blown around. Visibility will be reduced in spots and some roads could become snow covered again. Winds will slowly decrease after midnight, but it looks to stay breezy through the early afternoon Saturday.”

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Holiner said individuals driving this evening should use caution and give extra traveling time, as well as be aware of snow-covered roads.

Indiana State Police Sgt. Glen Fifield said the host of interstate crashes began at 1 p.m. Thursday and stretched into Friday afternoon.

In this period, ISP responded to a total of 131 calls for crashes. Out of those crashes, 84 were for property damage, 37 were spin-offs and slide-offs and 10 were crashes with injuries. Fifield said no one was seriously or fatally injured. In addition, police responded to calls to assist citizens who ran out of gas on the interstates.

Fifield said the hardest hit areas were on Interstate 65 from the 205 to 220 mile markers, south of the ISP Lowell Post. 

Northbound traffic along a stretch of Interstate 65 just south of the Region began to flow again Friday afternoon after crashes and jackknifed trucks closed it overnight, stranding motorists. 

“Some people were stuck overnight because we could not get to them due to jackknifed semis, visibility and other conditions,” Fifield said. “We could get a large number of them to truck stops, hotels, gas stations — really anywhere they could be inside and warm.”

Fifield said those stranded overnight were found unharmed when first responders came to their aid. 

Region residents awoke Friday morning to news that driving on the busy north-south highway remained treacherous as a result of the heavy snowfall and winds that moved through the area Thursday.

Motorists were previously urged to avoid the highway, while closed northbound lanes in the area of Rensselaer made passage impossible.

“It was a very challenging effort,” Fifield said. “We had tow operators going nonstop until they reached a point of exhaustion and couldn’t go on any longer. We reached out to an agency in Kokomo who came to help us and once some tow companies in northern Lake County heard we needed assistance, they came out. We are really thankful to all of them.”

Fifield said though warnings of hazardous travel conditions were announced ahead of time, not enough people heeded the warnings. 

“I think one thing that could have helped, was if folks listened when we told everyone to stay off of I-65,” Fifield said. “Warnings were not heeded and people became stranded. We were met with blizzard conditions out there, and when we ask people to stay off the roads, we do it for real safety reasons.”

In winter weather events, Fifield encouraged motorists to stay updated on road conditions and to be sure to have a full tank of gas, blankets, food, beverages and other essential and emergency items in their vehicles if they must travel. 

A travel watch was lifted early Friday afternoon for Porter County, but an advisory remained in effect in Lake County and Newton County Friday night. Watches also remained in place for LaPorte, Jasper and Starke counties, according to the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.

An advisory “means that routine travel or activities may be restricted in areas because of a hazardous situation, and individuals should use caution or avoid those areas,” the state said.

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A travel watch means that conditions are threatening to the safety of the public, IDHS said.

“During a ‘watch’ local travel advisory, only essential travel, such as to and from work or in emergency situations, is recommended, and emergency action plans should be implemented by businesses, schools, government agencies, and other organizations,” the state said.

In addition, a flood watch is in effect for areas of the Kankakee River near I-65 until Saturday morning. A lake shore flood advisory also warns of large waves of up to 10 to 14 feet that could cause flooding, dangerous conditions at Lake Michigan’s shores and shoreline erosion. Freezing spray could create ice accumulations on surfaces near the lake. 

Low temperatures will reach around 8 degrees Friday night with high temperatures only around 18 degrees Saturday, which is set to be a clear, sunny day.

Sunday is expected to have a significant warm up with temperatures in the low 40s with some gusty winds. 

To keep up on road conditions, the Indiana Department of Transportation updates its website at with images from highway and snowplow cameras. 

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