Watch CBS News

Dangerous conditions persist in Northwest Indiana, with nearly 3 feet of heavy lake effect snow

Heavy lake effect snow clobbers Northwest Indiana all day into night
Heavy lake effect snow clobbers Northwest Indiana all day into night 02:26

MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. (CBS) -- Heavy lake effect snow in Northwest Indiana caused near whiteout conditions and made travel dangerous to impossible on Friday.

A Winter Storm Warning is in effect for LaPorte County until 6 a.m. Saturday, with whiteout conditions possible at times. The warning has been extended to La Porte, Indiana until 9 p.m.

The National Weather Service warned people in La Porte County should consider postponing any non-essential travel.

NW Indiana experiencing hazardous road conditions due to heavy lake-effect snow 02:21

Snow totals in La Porte County already had reached as much as 32 inches by Friday night, and it was not over at that point. The National Weather Service had said snow rates of 2 inches or more per hour, with 40 mph wind gusts, will create "dangerous to impossible travel conditions."

A winter storm warning was also issued for neighboring Porter County between 10 p.m. Friday and 6 a.m. Saturday. Snow totals in Porter County have been much lower, with Chesterton getting 6 inches as of the last report. An additional 6 inches of snow is possible overnight.

Around noon, Indiana State Police posted photos of a snow-packed Interstate 94 at U.S. 421 in Michigan City. The conditions also shut down portions of major interstates, including I-94, throughout the day.

A snow-filled Interstate 94 in Michigan City on Friday. 

While plows worked local streets near Chesterton Friday night, an army of them also cleared the shoulder of the Borman Expressway (I-80/94) in anticipation of even more snowfall overnight.

"It's just plow, plow, plow and salt, salt, salt – just really going out there and getting the roads taken care of," said Cassandra Bajek of the Indiana Department of Transportation Northwest.

For parts of the day, Northwest Indiana experienced near-whiteout conditions. Early Friday morning, semi-trailer trucks were snarled as they crossed frozen-over bridges long I-65.

On I-94 in La Porte County, visibility when from about 0.25 mile to a snow-covered nothing in just minutes.

The heavy snow brought traffic to a standstill on I-94, which had to be closed. Plows got stuck in the miles-long backup, and troopers also had difficulty responding to crashes – one of which involved a UPS semi-trailer truck.

"We spent a lot of time today just waiting for traffic to clear to be able to clear the roadways," said Bajek.

I-94 was back open by late Friday night, but authorities warned people to use caution on the roads.

Northern Indiana drivers urged to stay off roads after nearly 2 feet of snowfall 01:22

In Michigan City, Indiana, drivers had to take it slow with about 16 inches of snow falling there. Even with plows traveling the streets often, it didn't seem to make a dent on the slippery roads.

Still, a CBS 2 crew spotted locals walking around because they said it was safer than driving. Some walking around had plans to buy a shovel and help others dig out.

"It's fun right now," said Andrew Smith, a Michigan City resident. "We haven't had this much snow in a minute, and Christmas wasn't snowy, so it's fun to do this. I can play with the kids, make snowballs, make a snowman."

Many made their way to a local gas station to refuel their snowblowers. One man said he spent hours trying to clear snow and had to get more gas after burning through four gallons just plowing his driveway.

Blowing snow causing dangerous driving conditions in Northwest Indiana 03:01

"Coming down, like 3 inches an hour, and the driveway's pretty big, so I actually had to get gas to go back to snow blowing it," said Jesse Pullins. "[I'll] probably be doing it for another couple of hours."

Meanwhile, Frank Finney and his family gambled on I-94 as they drove through Michigan City to La Porte.

"We're kind of taking a chance - rolling the dice," Finney said. "It's a little bit slippery out there, but it's not too bad. You just got to drive with a little bit of caution."

Snowplow driver Doug Mullins began working at 2 a.m. to clear parking lots and driveways – and was still going Friday night.

"Busy, stressed, hectic - but we are getting done," Mullins said. "It's crazy - over one night, you know, you can't keep up. We won't get home till late, so just keep on rocking and rolling."

Icy conditions on Interstate 65 also led to several crashes early Friday. A bridge south of U.S. 231 in Crown Point was "completely frozen," according to Indiana State Police.

Heavy snow-covered roads have been reported near Gary, Indiana. However, the heaviest snowfall has been reported in Porter and La Porte counties.

The Chicago area got much less overnight snow, but commuters were still impacted by slick roads. The National Weather Service released the overnight snow totals, with O'Hare International Airport and Rockford seeing 1.5 inches and 1.2 inches in Chicago.

Even after 2 feet of snow falls in parts of Indiana, more keeps falling 01:55

A driver involved in a crash on the Kennedy Expressway overnight said the driver who hit him couldn't slow down due to the road conditions. 

Chicago's Streets and Sanitation Department deployed more than 200 salt spreaders in response to the snow overnight. Officials are warning drivers to allow the trucks extra space to clear the road. 

You can track plows in your area in real time with the city's plow tracker.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.