LOWELL — The freezing rain that left much of Northwest Indiana coated in ice on Saturday created a nightmare for drivers and a busy day for state police and highway workers.
From late Saturday afternoon through the night, a mix of light sleet and freezing rain overspread northern Indiana.
It resulted in treacherous road conditions, dozens of crashes and hundreds of calls for service for troopers and dispatchers, according to a statement from the Indiana State Police Lowell Post.
Between 5 and 10 p.m. on Jan. 8, post dispatchers fielded more than 400 landline and 911 calls from the public. While fielding the calls, they also had to maintain dispatching for the troopers who were responding to crashes and slide-offs across the region, according to ISP Sgt. Glen Fifield.
Troopers responded to 59 vehicle damage crashes, 11 injury crashes, 16 slide-offs (no report or damage) and 15 assists to motorists, according to ISP. No fatalities were reported.
One trooper’s vehicle was struck on I-80/94 as troopers investigated the numerous crashes and rollovers.
The interstates were “littered with crashes. Cars are reportedly crashing like ‘ping-pong balls’ at crash scenes. Once one vehicle crashes, it’s resulting in several secondary crashes at the same location,” Fifeld said.
ISP thanked the Indiana Department of Transportation Northwest for their hours of work trying to keep the roads passable.
INDOT had more than 115 trucks out salting the roads for hours on Saturday, but it’s “extremely difficult to melt what’s on the roads when freezing rain continues to cover the roads,” ISP said.
Salt was being put down on the roads as early as 1 p.m., but still could not keep up.
“We often take their efforts for granted, but they continue to give 100 percent effort,” Fifield said.
INDOT reported it was operating under a full call out due to the freezing rain, but said “surfaces like roadways and sidewalks were coated with ice due to the continual precipitation and ground temperatures.”
ISP said drivers should take note of the incidents as winter progresses.
“Many of these crashes could have been prevented had drivers slowed their speed and took the travel/weather alerts more seriously,” Fifield said.
“For those that are choosing to be critical of others’ efforts, it’s each driver’s responsibility to pay attention to the forecasts – this weather was predicted – and drive accordingly.
“We’re not kidding when we say slow down. Way down!”
La PORTE — One of La Porte County’s little-known sites, the Silver Lake area in Rolling Prairie, is home to an oasis of learning and history.
“I think it’s a really unnoticed and unknown thing, this little treasure that we have out around Silver Lake in Rolling Prairie,” said Liam Hobbs, assistant principal and teacher at Sacred Heart Apostolic School.
Hobbs talked about the school, located to the west of Silver Lake at 5901 N. CR-500E in Rolling Prairie, and the history of the surrounding area at last week’s La Porte Rotary meeting.
Sacred Heart Apostolic School, run by the Legion of Christ, is a high school for boys who are considering priestly life and vocation.
“(It’s) a school that not many people know about,” Hobbs said.
The area surrounding the campus has been home to five institutions of learning in the last 100 years: Interlaken School, Camp Roosevelt, St. Joseph’s Novitiate, Le Mans Academy and Sacred Heart Apostolic School.
Interlaken was founded by Dr. Edward Rumely. The focus of the school was a rural, hands-on and agrarian education.
“It was actually founded in 1907 right here in La Porte. It’s first campus was just down the street. Think of where Round the Clock is, there was a big house where they started,” Hobbs said.
Rumely, said Hobbs, bought hundreds of acres around Silver Lake in Rolling Prairie and moved to that location in 1911.
“As many as 125 high school-aged boys attended there. They came primarily from the big cities, sons of industrialists.
“The idea was these upper-class families wanted their boys to really get an experience at hard work and what it meant to make something with their own hands. It was a very practical, pragmatic education,” Hobbs said.
All work at the school was done by the students, including the construction of buildings, growing of food and care of animals.
“Everything was done hands-on by the students,” Hobbs said.
Hobbs shared a few anecdotes of the boys’ work at the school, including one instance where the students tramped 18 miles from the school to the Indiana Dunes, gathered driftwood for campfires, camped there, and then hiked all the way back.
“We have actually had a couple students re-create this hike. It can be done. It is grueling,” Hobbs said.
Interlaken had 18 to 20 buildings, cabins and a tent city. Those structures are now gone and the area is wooded.
“Unfortunately, with the advent of World War I, Dr. Rumely’s ties to German-style education and also the subsequent flu outbreak didn’t help things much and the school abruptly closed in 1918,” Hobbs said.
The most notable and last student at Interlaken was modern artist Isamu Noguchi.
“He got dropped off at Rolling Prairie by himself and attended school there for all of about three months before it closed. He was pretty much orphaned. He helped the caretakers there until he finally found a home in Rolling Prairie,” Hobbs said.
After Interlaken closed, the site became the U.S. Army’s Camp Roosevelt. It operated as a training center for motor pool soldiers, but it was impacted by the Spanish flu pandemic.
“The first soldiers coming into town, they brought the flu. Influenza struck and started wiping out the soldiers right and left,” Hobbs said.
Plans for the site included it being made into a Midwestern military academy.
“They were going to make it into a West Point or Naval Academy type place. They decided to transfer everybody, in 1923, up to Chicago. They moved all the 500 soldiers who were in Rolling Prairie up to Chicago and that became the Great Lakes Naval Training Center,” Hobbs said.
The Brothers of the Holy Cross purchased the property in 1925 and it became St. Joseph’s Novitiate. In 1932 they constructed a building patterned after a monastery in Lombard, Italy.
“If you come out to our school today, this is what you’ll see. It has not changed since 1932,” Hobbs said.
The late Father Theodore Hesburgh, former president of the University of Notre Dame, started his religious formation at the school.
Following the seminary’s closure in the 1960s, a boarding school in Wisconsin named Sacred Heart decided to consolidate and moved to the site.
Hobbs said they built the school wing in 1969 and became Le Mans Academy, a military-based prep school that was run by the Brothers of the Holy Cross.
“If you’ve been around this area for any number of years you might remember Le Mans,” Hobbs said.
When Le Mans closed in 2003, the property was sold to private investors.
Sacred Heart Apostolic School, which opened in 2005, bought the road frontage. It does not own the property that was the site of Interlaken or Silver Lake.
“We’re a cross between St. Joseph’s Novitiate and Le Mans in that we are a house of religious formation for young men who are considering a call to religious ministry.
“However, we’re not a seminary. We’ve replaced the military aspect of training with a spiritual focus and that’s the difference. Instead of marching, doing their uniforms, doing their drills, they do more prayer,” Hobbs said.
He said the students have some interest in pursuing a religious vocation, but most do not.
“They can leave us and go try seminary. If it’s not for them, then they’re well-educated, well-rounded, prayerful husbands and fathers and, hopefully, leaders in society,” Hobbs said.
The high school-aged students that attend Sacred Heart Apostolic come from across the country, and around the world. The most students the school has had was 50.
In terms of activities, they offer a music program and are doing more sports, including basketball, soccer and a cross country team that hosted its first meet this year.
“Everything used to be intramural. We’re trying to get out a bit and have the boys compete more,” Hobbs said.
The school, he said, is making an effort to be more open to the public.
“If you ever see a kid in a red sweater or blue sweater with hair nicely done and polished shoes ... that’s one of our guys,” Hobbs said.
La PORTE — Winter weather has ushered in not just snow and cold, but challenges to the city’s utilities.
“We are definitely in main break season,” La Porte Water Department Supt. Tim Werner said at last week’s Board of Public Works and Safety meeting.
“Most of you are aware, we had a main break on Christmas. We’ve had a couple since. It’s that time of year.
Water Department crews spent Christmas Day repairing a 6-inch main on Fox Street. During the incident, there were no water quality issues and neighborhood residents had plenty of water, Werner said.
The pipe, installed in the 1940s or 1950s, according to Werner, was fixed with a repair clamp for the time being. In the spring or summer, crews will replace the old infrastructure with a new pipe.
Werner asked motorists to be aware of crews that might be outside working on repairs.
“We’re asking the public, when they see us out working, slow down. Take your time in our work area. It’s easy to get splashed with people driving by at a high rate of speed.”
He also talked about steps residents can take in the cold weather to make sure their pipes are in working order.
Homeowners, he said, should make sure cold air is not blowing on water pipes or the home’s water meter.
“It’s important to cut off those drafts if there’s any drafts blowing in a crawl space, basement or any windows cracked where that cold air is blowing on any kind of water pipe or water meter,” Werner said.
Frozen pipes can also be prevented by opening the cabinets below kitchen and bathroom sinks.
“Open up those cabinet doors underneath your sink if it’s an outside wall once the temperatures get real cold just to allow that heat from the house into the cabinet space,” he said.
During extreme cold, such as the single-digit temperatures La Porte experienced at the end of last week, frozen pipes can be prevented by running a trickle of water through the pipe.
“If you’ve had frozen lines in the past, we’re only talking a pencil lead stream of water is enough to keep those lines open.
“If you do have shallow lines and experienced frozen lines in the past, it is time to start being aware of that,” Werner said.
MICHIGAN CITY — Elizabeth “Liz” Bergeron, an Indiana Medicaid waiver case manager with more than two decades of experience in leadership and management, has filed to run for a seat on the La Porte County Board of Commissioners.
The Michigan City and longtime La Porte County residents is seeking the Republican nomination for the District 1 commissioner seat in the 2022 Primary Election.
“This race is all about who has the right experience. The residents of La Porte County deserve a commissioner who is dedicated and shows up,” she said.
“A commissioner who serves all of La Porte County and who knows how to be proactive and get things done, someone who does not just sit back but works to make La Porte County better and ready for the future.”
Bergeron said that is not the case currently.
“Recently, La Porte County has seen that this is not the case with the current District 1 Commissioner and it’s time for change.”
Growing the county’s population and economy, providing accountability and transparency in county government, ensuring proper code and zoning, and ensuring county funds are used properly and fairly are her top priorities, she said.
Bergeron has been a resident of La Porte County for 18 years and said she brings a “wealth of knowledge and experience from the law enforcement, insurance and financial, IT, and social services positions she has held.
She currently works as a Medicaid waiver case manager, working with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.
She said she’s “confident that the professional and educational experiences and abilities” that she can bring to the position are “unique and unmatched by the current officeholder or potential candidates.”
Bergeron holds a Bachelor’s of Science in healthcare administration and is currently pursuing her master’s degree in public health.
She is married to local podcaster and State Representative District 9 candidate Dion Bergeron, and they have five children, ages 14 to 26. She is a volunteer with La Porte County Special Olympics Pickleball and a former CASA volunteer.
For more information on how to donate to the campaign, visit Liz for La Porte County on Facebook; @Liz forLaPorteCo on Twitter; or @lizforlaportecounty on Instagram. You can also email LizBergeron@protonmail.com or visit lizbergeron.com.