NW Ind. I-65 reopens for the 2nd time, still hazardous - FOX 32 News Chicago

NW Ind. I-65 reopens, still hazardous, drive at your own risk

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Snow blowing and coming down hard! All roads are closed in Northwest Indiana, except for emergency vehicles. Stay in, stay safe and stay warm! (Carrie Davis) Snow blowing and coming down hard! All roads are closed in Northwest Indiana, except for emergency vehicles. Stay in, stay safe and stay warm! (Carrie Davis)
(FOX 32 News photographer Chuck Quinzio) (FOX 32 News photographer Chuck Quinzio)
LAKE COUNTY, Ind. (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

The Indiana Department of Transportation Northwest Division reports Interstate 65 is open to traffic again, but roads are still hazardous. Non-emergency travel is still strongly discouraged.

If you choose to drive on the interstate between U.S. 30 in Merrillville and Lafayette, you're traveling at your own risk.

Please take it slow and exercise extreme caution since there is still ice and snow all over the road and the salt is not as effective when temperatures are below zero.

Early Tuesday, INDOT said that "conditions remain extremely icy on passable roads, while others are becoming impassable from drifting snow, especially in the rural parts of Newton, Jasper, and southern Lake counties."

The agency said the extreme cold is hindering its efforts to clear roads. In addition to road salt being ineffective in extreme cold, the temperatures "are also causing numerous mechanical failures for INDOT plows and heavy machinery," the agency said.

INDOT urged residents to stay home if possible. The Indiana Department of Homeland Security has Lake and Porter counties under a travel watch, meaning only essential travel should be undertaken; LaPorte, Newton and Jasper remain under travel warnings, limiting travel to official emergencies.

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.

Meanwhile, while many hospitals and government offices that had closed Monday made plans to reopen Tuesday, schools across the region were announcing that they would remain closed for a second straight day.

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.

Gov. Mike 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 will reopen for business Tuesday.

Porter County's state of emergency expires at 6 a.m. Tuesday and government offices will reopen 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 tomorrow 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. It was set to resume Tuesday.

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."

Meanwhile, schools across the region that were closed Monday announced they would remain closed Tuesday, including the Gary Community School Corp., Merrillville Community Schools, East Porter County School Corp., Valparaiso Community Schools, Porter County Career Center and Lake Central School Corp.

FOX 32 contributed to this report.

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