Freezing rain, sleet continue to fall on Michiana, leading to slick commutes, power outages

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By: Jon Zimney jzimney@953mnc.com

Drivers across INDOT’s entire Northwest District are expected to continue to encounter slick conditions on the roads through the evening as the Freezing Rain Advisory and Wind Advisory continue until Monday night, Dec. 28. Widespread freezing rain and sleet have blanketed all of Michiana since early Monday morning.

As of 3 p.m. on Monday, nearly 4,500 Indiana Michigan Power customers were without electricity.

As many as 10,000 NIPSCO customers were without power on Monday afternoon, as well.

INDOT has 170 plow/salt crews on the roads right now in northwest Indiana, but these conditions are exceptionally tricky, according to the Indiana Department of Transportation.

Salt, sand, and other materials can help melt the ice and increase traction, but the wintry mix is washing de-icing materials off the road, requiring repeated applications.

INDOT crews pre-treated roadways with de-icing materials on Sunday with dozens of plow/salt crews hitting the road.

Here are a few tips from INDOT to remember when driving in difficult conditions:

  • Drive with caution. Reduce your speed when snow or ice is present on roads, allowing three times the normal following distance from the vehicle in front of you.
  • Always clear your entire windshield along with the other windows of snow and ice.
  • Only change lanes when it is absolutely necessary.
  • When snow and ice is present, drivers should not expect to travel the speed limit. Reduce your speed and drive according to the conditions.
  • Stay informed: Drivers can learn about highway work zones and other traffic alerts at indot.carsprogram.org, 1-800-261-ROAD (7623) or 511 from a mobile phone.

Hazardous weather wreaking havoc in both Indiana and Michigan

High water caused scattered road closures across Indiana following heavy rains, with officials warning drivers to watch for freezing rain in northern parts of the state.

The National Weather Service says light freezing rain fell Monday morning in the South Bend and Fort Wayne areas. It issued a freezing rain advisory for roughly the northern third of Indiana.

The weather service says rainfall since Saturday morning has ranged from 2 inches to more than 5 inches in central and southern Indiana.

Flood warnings remained in effect Monday for the Wabash and White rivers and many of their tributaries, where moderate lowland flooding could continue for the coming days.

Officials in western Michigan are warning residents to prepare for a storm that is forecast to bring freezing rain and high winds.

Kent County emergency management office in Grand Rapids says a winter storm warning has been issued for Monday afternoon through Tuesday morning. Van Buren County is among the counties in the warning zone.

All county offices in Paw Paw, Michigan were set to close at 3 p.m. on Monday due to the ongoing ice storm.

Emergency Management Coordinator Jack Stewart says wind gusts could reach upward of 50 mph and “could take down trees and power lines.”

Up to a half-inch of ice also could accumulate from the storm.

The state’s Emergency Operations Center has been activated as a winter storm is expected to bring heavy wet snow to the Upper Peninsula and freezing rain and high winds to other parts of Michigan.

Gov. Rick Snyder also says state offices in the Lower Peninsula are to close at 1 p.m. Monday due to the storm.

Stewart says residents should have working flashlights and batteries, and a three-day supply of water and non-perishable food.

State emergency officials say the storm is expected to affect most of the Lower Peninsula.

Thunderstorms and wind gusts last week knocked out power to thousands of homes and businesses across the state.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.