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Lake County/Porter County, IN Declared Disaster Area
Wednesday'* storm, which caused damage throughout Lake and Porter counties, carried with it a strong downdraft that flowed toward the ground before spreading out horizontally.
But evidence gathered during a damage survey Thursday shows no signs of tornadic activity, said Chris Gitro, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Romeoville, Ill.
"It could be called a long-lived microburst along with a severe thunderstorm," Gitro said.
Two National Weather Service meteorologists followed the storm'* path Thursday and found no evidence of sustained or organized wind circulation that reached the ground, Gitro said. The meteorologists found storm damage took place in a southeasterly direction, he said.
The storm cut a path about 3 to 5 miles wide along a route through East Chicago, Gary, Hobart and east of Merrillville, bringing with it golf ball-sized hail, flooding, uprooted trees, downed power lines and property damage.
The storm continued through Porter County.
Winds from Wednesday'* storm averaged between 50 mph and 70 mph, and in southeastern Porter County near Kouts, where the storm reached its peak, winds may have reach between 100 mph and 120 mph.
Winds near Kouts toppled 21 steel lattice towers carrying 345,000 volt transmission lines that route power from NIPSCO'* Schaefer generating station in Wheatfield to local substations, NIPSCO spokesman Larry Graham said.
The Kouts Fire Department responded to a report of a propane leak when a large gas tank was blown from its location and ruptured at 693 South 600 East about 10 p.m.
About 33,000 people were still without power in the region Thursday night.
NIPSCO reported the hardest hit communities were Hammond and Gary but stressed that most Lake County communities experienced some damage and outages.
The biggest obstacle facing NIPSCO in its restoration efforts are downed trees obstructing power lines, Graham said.
"I think it'* an indication of the storm'* strength and power that moved through Lake County," Graham said. "It'* very unusual to go four or five days to restore power, and it takes a very large storm to cause that kind of damage to our distribution network."
Fallen trees and downed power lines affected mail service in Gary, and a post office in Glen Park and one in Lake Station were closed because of power outages, according to a news release.
Nearly half of the Gary schools were without power, and the Glen Park neighborhood was without power early Thursday afternoon, Gary schools spokeswoman Sarita Stevens said.
Indiana University Northwest and Ivy Tech Community College in Gary were without power Thursday and will be closed until further notice.
-- Times staff writers Lauri Harvey Keagle, Krystin Kasak and Chris Keller contributed to this report.
-- Merrillville'* Deep River Water Park, which lost all power Wednesday night at 8:50 p.m., remained closed Thursday. Power was restored about 8:15 a.m., said Tom Bergman, spokesman for the park, and the staff spent the day draining flooded areas and assessing the damage.
-- Power outages caused Schererville'* Omni 41 fitness club to close for several hours before opening at 1:45 p.m.