UPDATE: Winter storm cripples roads, U.S. 421 shut down in LaPorte County

By: Kevin Lewis Email
By: Kevin Lewis Email

Saturday’s rain washed away most of Michiana’s snow, but you'd never know it looking out the window Sunday. The snow is back and yet again it did a number on roads from St. Joseph to Starke County.

What’s different about this round of snow, brutal wind gusts that blow snow in every which direction. The winds are strongest in wide open areas like the airfield at South Bend Regional Airport where gusts were north of forty miles an hour.

For a winter storm warning that won’t expire until 1 a.m. Tuesday, it had a wicked start. So it wasn’t long before emergency workers had to juggle hundreds of car accidents all day and into the early morning hours.

Around 3 p.m. Sunday, police had a portion of Day Road, just east of Bittersweet shut down due to a car accident. Mishawaka Police say the driver of a Dodge Ram pickup lost control on a curve, sending the truck head-on with a 2011 Toyota Sienna. The van's air bags deployed, but it did not stop one person from going to the hospital for leg injuries.

A few miles away, St. Joseph County emergency crews were also busy with another accident at the corner of Linden and Johnson Roads.

"The car continued southbound and slid off the roadway, turned over and landed in a small swamp,” Corporal Jason Dziubinski said about the wreck.

Crews called-off the rescue team after the driver safely escaped in the pond's shallow water.

Meanwhile, St. Joseph, Mich. authorities blocked the pier near Silver Beach after 38 mile per hour winds sent waves crashing ashore. Those winds hit 66 miles per hour in Michigan City, freezing over our Blue Chip Casino sky camera.

State police kept busy on the Indiana Toll Road with 40 accidents and dozens of slide offs from Angola to Portage. INDOT reports it has deployed more than 900 yellow plow trucks to clear and treat all state roads, interstates and U.S. Highways.

The taxis lined up outside South Bend Regional Airport were not in luck, nor was Rebeca Claus, who’s stranded until 10 p.m. Monday.

"I’m pretty upset; it’s not a great day. I’m tired and hungry and exhausted and I just want to go home, get in bed and go to sleep,” Claus said after her Allegiant Airlines flight was cancelled Sunday afternoon.

Every arrival after 7 p.m. was either cancelled or delayed at the airport and the departures board was not much better.

Dispatchers in Elkhart County saw 38 accidents in a six hour period Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile Stark County officers responded to 25 wrecks as Berrien County handled 92 during that same time frame.

However, LaPorte County has seen the worst of this storm. Emergency workers there say they cannot keep up with the volume of accidents. As of 1 a.m. Monday morning, authorities had shut down a 20 mile stretch of U.S 421 between Westville and La Crosse and declared a state of emergency for the county. Authorities say severe white out conditions have caused dozens of trucks and cars to wipe out and block the roadway. Police are actively working to get to the stranded drivers as the temperatures dip further below freezing.

As of 2 a.m. Monday, Porter County authorities had also declared a state of emergency, with most all roads undriveable.

Interestingly enough, South Bend Police say they saw less than ten auto accidents Sunday because wind gusts are less likely in urban areas where speed limits are also lower.

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