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Severe Weather: Limit Travel, Talk About Your Plan

With most of Indiana under a high risk of severe weather, the Indiana Department of Homeland Security is warning Hoosiers to stay home if possible.  Officials say thunderstorms, flash floods, and tornadoes can all appear suddenly with little warning, and may only last a few minutes, but have the strength and power to cause a great amount of damage. Make sure to have a severe weather plan in place.  Hoosiers are advised to talk to family members about what you'll do to shelter in your home and what you'll do if you need to evacuate.
 
Below are tips on preparedness for severe weather from the Indiana Department of Homeland Security:
Postpone or cancel outdoor activities and listen to weather reports on the radio or television.
Monitor developing conditions on local media or with a weather radio.
Seek shelter inside a building or in a hardtop vehicle, but do not touch the metal inside.
Do NOT go near tall trees or any other tall objects, or near downed power lines.
Do NOT go under overpasses. Wind speeds increase and can cause serious injuries.
If in a vehicle, get out and go into a strong building if possible. If not, lie in a flat ditch or low area and cover your head. Be aware of low lying areas that may flood.
If you live in a mobile home, get out immediately. Shelter in a building with a strong foundation.
If caught out in the middle of a body of water, return to shore as soon as possible.
Basements, inner rooms, and storm cellars provide the best protection during a thunderstorm or tornado. Stay in the center of the room, away from doors and windows.
For more information, go to www.getprepared.in.gov  ....
 

Wind Ban Issued for Indiana Toll Road

Traffic-Alert
The Indiana Toll Road has banned all triple, long-double and high-profile oversize permit loads (excluding low-profile steel haulers) for the entire length of the Indiana Toll Road through Monday, November 18, 2013, 1:00 am EST due to the threat of high winds. Toll road officials say the ban will be reevaluated Monday morning, November 18, 2013 at 1:00 am EST for possible extension....
 

Chicago Cautions Bears Fans of Severe Weather Threat

The National Weather Service warns severe thunderstorms are expected to roll across parts of the Midwest today (Sunday) producing damaging wind, hail, and tornadoes. Storm Prediction Center Meteorologist Corey Mead told ABC News a number of large cities are in the path of the storms: "Chicago; Indianapolis; Columbus, Ohio; Cincinnati, Ohio; and possibly Louisville, Kentucky." 
Chicago National Weather Service website: http://www.crh.noaa.gov/lot/
The Chicago Office of Emergency Management issued an alert for those attending the Bears game in Chicago today, cautioning fans that " storms are expected to have strong, damaging winds up to and possibly in excess of 70 mph.They may also bring heavy rainfall, localized flooding, large hail and cloud-to-ground lightning. Isolated tornadoes are also possible. Bears fans are urged to take extra precautions and take the appropiate measures to ensure their personal safety ... with the most severe weather impacting the city between noon and 3 p.m."
http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/oem/provdrs/emerg_mang/alerts/2013/jun/city_reminds_chicagoansofextremesummerweatherprecautions.html...
 

Tornado Watch, High Wind Warnings Issued

A Tornado Watch and High Wind Warning have been issued for Northwest Indiana.  For details, visit: Chicago Natonal Weather Service: http://www.crh.noaa.gov/lot/

 

Late Fall Severe Weather Possible in NW Indiana

We could see late Fall severe weather in the Region this weekend.  Temperatures in the low 60s today and upper 60s Sunday are expected, and some storms may become severe, especially Sunday, with damaging winds and large hail possible.  Forecasters say an isolated tornado is also possible. A strong cold front will move across the area, with cooler temperatures expected back in northwest Indiana Sunday night.
National Weather Service Chicago: http://www.crh.noaa.gov/lot/
National Weather Service Northern Indiana: http://www.crh.noaa.gov/iwx/...
 

Investigations Continue into Fatal Accident at Steel Mill

 Multiple investigations continue into an accident at a northwest Indiana steel mill that claimed the life of an ironworker and injured two others from Pangere Corporation this week. Reports say a falling metal plate at ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor West in East Chicago early Wednesday claimed the life of 39-year-old Michael Samuelson of Valparaiso. The Lake County Coroner's office reported Samuelson suffered blunt force trauma and was pronounced dead at the scene. His death was ruled accidental. Two other contractors were taken to a local hospital where they were reportedly in stable condition as of Friday.

...
 

Donnelly: New EPA Rule Will Hurt Indiana Economy

us senator joe donnelly
Indiana Democrat US Senator Joe Donnelly Friday responded to the Environmental Protection Agency announcement that the agency reduce the requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard [RFS] for 2014, which is the law requiring a certain volume of renewable fuel in the overall fuel supply sold in the United States.  Renewable fuels include ethanol, cellulosic biofuel, biomass biodiesel, and other advanced biodiesels.
“The production and use of biofuels that are grown and developed right here at home helps our economy and increases our national security by lessening our dependence on foreign oil,” said Donnelly.  “I am frustrated and disappointed that the EPA has lowered the volume of renewable fuels required in our overall fuel supply.  Cutting the volume of renewable fuels required in our transportation fuel will hurt Indiana workers and hurt Indiana’s economy.”
Donnelly's ofice says the RFS was first established in 2005 and updated in 2007 to ensure a minimum level of renewable energy use in our transportation fuel supply.  The 2013 requirements were 13.8 billion gallons of ethanol and 2.75 billion gallons of other advanced biofuels.  Under law, the 2014 requirements are set at 14.4 billion gallons of ethanol and 3.75 billion gallons of other advanced biofuels.  The new 2014 requirements announced by EPA today would lower the requirements to 13.01 billion gallons of ethanol and 2.2 billion gallons of other advanced biofuels....
 

Officers Increase Enforcement of Caviar Regulations

caviarone
More than a dozen caviar fishermen on the Wabash River from Indiana and Illinois have been arrested,cited, or warned in the past year. Conservation officers from both states have stepped up their patrols in the commercial fishing industry, especially in the harvest of shovelnose sturgeon, a fish sought after for its roe, or eggs. Officers say violations have included unlawful use of certain equipment, fishing with an illegal device, and fishing without a license. Master Officer Steve Kline says at least twenty-five additional violations are being investigated for prosecution, involving several other individuals from both states.  [Photos/provided]
caviartwo
Indiana DNR Law Enforcement News Release: Law enforcement officers from Indiana and Illinois have increased their enforcement efforts of domestic caviar regulations since the onset of the 2012-13 Wabash River shovelnose sturgeon season. Conservation Officers from both Indiana and Illinois have recently stepped up their patrols in the commercial fishing industry, particularly in the commercial harvest of shovelnose sturgeon, which is a fish that is sought after for its roe (eggs). 13 persons from both Indiana and Illinois have been arrested, cited, or warned for commercial fishing violations in the last year. Equipment seizures include 35 commercial fishing nets, three trot lines, 2 wire fish traps, and one boat/motor. These violations include:

• Unlawful use of a gill net (6 counts)
• Failure to tag commercial fishing equipment (7 counts)
• Unlawful use of leads on commercial device (2 counts)
• Unlawful possession of sturgeon under 25” (4 counts)
• Fishing with an illegal device (wire trap) (2 counts)
• Fishing without a license (3 counts)
• Checking sturgeon for presence of eggs with an illegal device (2 counts)

A combined effort between Indiana Conservation Officers and Illinois Conservation Police took place as a result of a number of citizen complaints along the boundary waters of the Wabash River, where shovelnose sturgeon are found. These investigations involved assets from both states, and included river patrols, intelligence gathering and surveillance. “Since we share the fisheries resources with the people of the State of Illinois, it only makes sense to ensure that our regulations and enforcement efforts remain similar,” says Master Officer Steve Kinne, a commercial fishing investigator for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. “At least 25 additional violations are being investigated for prosecution, involving several other individuals from both states.”

The shovelnose sturgeon is a fish that is native to the waters of the Mississippi, Illinois, and Wabash Rivers. Although some sport fishermen consume the meat from shovelnose sturgeon, it is the eggs that have been targeted by commercial fishermen in recent years, because of the collapse of the European sturgeon market. Supplies of roe collected from sturgeon in the Caspian Sea plummeted after government deregulation in that region.

Female shovelnose sturgeon living in the Wabash River migrate upstream annually to spawn, or to lay their eggs. These eggs, referred to as roe, are eventually sold, processed, and distributed as caviar. Processed shovelnose sturgeon roe (eggs), commonly referred to as hackleback caviar, currently has a retail market value of approximately $320 / pound. One adult roe-bearing sturgeon can contain as much as one pound of eggs.

“The Wabash River population of shovelnose sturgeon is one of the last commercially exploited sturgeon populations in the world, therefore, strict enforcement of regulations are necessary to ensure proper management while allowing a sustainable harvest,” says Craig Jansen, Big Rivers Assistant Fisheries Biologist of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

Commercial fishermen in both states are allowed to take shovelnose sturgeon with approved commercial fishing devices on the Wabash River, as long as they possess the required licenses. Illinois roe harvesters are required to have an Illinois commercial fishing license, an Illinois roe harvester license, and a sport fishing license. Indiana roe harvesters fishing on the Wabash River are required to have an Indiana commercial fishing license and an Indiana roe harvester license. Approved commercial fishing devices in either state include, but are not limited to, hoop nets, fyke nets, basket nets, and basket traps, or trap nets made of twine or cord. Gill nets are prohibited in both states for taking sturgeon. For additional information on commercial fishing regulations and season dates, go to www.in.gov/dnr or www.dnr.state.il.us

All suspects in this investigation are presumed innocent until proven guilty....
 

Pence Pens Letter to Supt Ritz, Board of Ed

Indiana Governor Mike Pence has reached out to a national group to help facilitate a discussion and resolve the difficulties between State School Superintendent Glenda Ritz and the State Board of Education. Friday Pence sent a letter to Ritz and members of the board encouraging them to engage the National Association of State Boards of Education in restoring cooperation and trust. Ritz, a Democrat, recently tried to sue the board in a case that was thrown out, and this week Ritz walked out of a meeting. The board is made up of members appointed by the Republican Pence or former GOP Governor Mitch Daniels.
A copy of the Governor’s letter is below:
November 15, 2013
SUPERINTENDENT RITZ: VIA HAND DELIVERY AND ELECTRONIC MAIL
MEMBERS OF THE BOARD: VIA ELECTRONIC MAIL
Glenda Ritz, Chair
Superintendent of Public Instruction
Tony Walker
First Congressional District Representative
David Freitas
Second Congressional District Representative
Cari Whicker
Third Congressional District Representative
Sarah O’Brien
Fourth Congressional District Representative
Andrea Neal
Fifth Congressional District Representative
Brad Oliver
Sixth Congressional District Representative
Daniel Elsener
Seventh Congressional District Representative
B.J. Watts
Eighth Congressional District Representative
Troy Albert
Ninth Congressional District Representative
Gordon Hendry
At-Large Representative
Dear Superintendent Ritz and Members of the State Board of Education:
Let me begin by thanking all of you for your commitment to serving the children of our state through your service on the State Board of Education. Hoosiers are fortunate to have such a talented and dedicated group working on their behalf.
I commend you for the progress you’ve made this year.  Most recently I am grateful for your work in committing to a timetable for completion of the 2012-2013 A-F grades, in reaching consensus on the next steps to revise our A-F model, and in passing emergency rules to enable Choice Scholarship schools to serve students who qualify for special education.
Despite this strong progress, I am aware that the Board has had difficulties in working together, and I am writing to offer my Administration’s assistance in finding a solution.
As you are aware, Indiana is a member of the nonprofit National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE). Founded in 1958, NASBE works to strengthen state leadership in educational policymaking, promote excellence in the education of all students, advocate equality of access to educational opportunity, and assure continued citizen support for public education. The organization has a national perspective on the work of state boards of education, has expertise in best practices and has provided consulting regarding governance of state boards across the nation.
I am writing to inform you that I have reached out to NASBE, and they have agreed to facilitate a discussion within the Indiana State Board of Education to clarify its roles and responsibilities and reach a common understanding regarding the governance procedures. Our Administration is prepared to provide any and all resources and assistance needed to coordinate this process, and I hope the Board will consider this sincere offer to engage NASBE in resolving these present difficulties.
I know you share my belief that it is of the utmost importance to Indiana’s schoolchildren that the differences that have emerged between the Superintendent and the other members of the Board be resolved in a civil and respectful way to restore a spirit of cooperation and trust. The Board has an opportunity to do so in engaging NASBE, which has extensive national experience with state boards of education, governance matters and education issues.
Hoosiers are indebted to each of you for your work on the State Board of Education. On behalf of every student, parent, teacher, and administrator in Indiana, I offer my heartfelt appreciation for the hours that you give to this effort. I am confident that, with this assistance, you will be able to resolve your differences quickly and build on the progress that Indiana has made in educational achievement.
Because of your work test scores are up, graduation rates are up, and the future of education and our young people has never been brighter.
I look forward to your reply regarding this proposal to engage the National Association of State Boards of Education to assist the Indiana State Board of Education in moving forward for the good of all Hoosiers and stand ready to offer any and all assistance in making this happen in a timely manner.
Sincerely
Michael R. Pence
Governor of Indiana...
 

Opportunity Enterprises Expands Minivan Fleet

oe
Opportunity Enterprises has expanded its fleet of accessible minivans, thanks to grants from the Indiana Department of Transportation, Porter County Community Foundation, and the Valparaiso Rotary. The vans are used for medical appointments and to transport small groups of two to three participants to community volunteer engagements during the day, as well as social outings in the evenings and on weekends. OE maintains a fleet of 36 vehicles: 18 Large Transit Vehicles, 9 full-size vans, and now nine accessible minivans. OE serves over eleven-hundred adults and children with disabilities throughout Northwest Indiana.
Photo: David Stupay, OE President and CEO, Barb Young, President of the Porter County Community Foundation, and John Walsh, President of Heat Wagon and Chair of the Valparaiso Rotary’s Community Development and Community Service Committee stand in front of three new low floor minivans with ramps. [Photo provided]
“As OE continues to expand our services, smaller accessible vehicles like these minivans are a perfect fit for our transportation needs. They are easy for staff to drive, they get great gas mileage, and they are extremely easy for all of our participants to get in and out of,” said Stupay. “These vans allow our participants to really get out into the community and live life to its fullest.”
In 2012, OE received a grant from the Indiana Department of Transportation for three low-floor accessible minivans, valued at more than $100,000. Required to match 20% of the project total locally, OE received $10,000 from the Porter County Community Foundation, $5,000 from the Valparaiso Rotary Club’s Community Development and Community Service Committee, and utilized internal operating dollars for the remainder of the match.
“This project really demonstrates the teamwork approach that I have come to love about Valparaiso, and we are truly grateful for the support of the Porter County Community Foundation and Valparaiso Rotary’s Community Development and Community Service Committee,” said David Stupay, President and CEO of OE. The minivans will be used to provide transportation for participants in OE’s supported living program, their respite program, and their Community Integration program, which takes participants to volunteer jobs around the community.
For more information, visit www.oppent.org ...
 

All-Clear Issued at Ball State

Ball State University issued an all-clear shortly before 8-o'clock Eastern Time Friday night after reports that a possible armed gunman might be on campus. The initial alert was issued about three hours earlier after someone in the recreation and wellness building reportedly shouted there was a gun. Several roads were shut down around the campus as a precaution, and several university buildings were searched, and authorities reported no weapon was found. University officials reported last night that the campus was secure....
   

Coats Asks EPA Why Wasn't Indiana on Listening Tour

senator-coats-sm
Republican Indiana US Senator Dan Coats Friday sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy asking why the agency did not include Indiana in its recent listening tour on the impact of proposed rules to limit greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants. Coats says with Indiana being one of the leading states in coal production and coal-fired electricity generation, it's “alarming” the EPA would conduct a series of listening sessions without listening to people in the Hoosier state. The last in the series of eleven sessions was held in Chicago last week.
Although Administrator McCarthy is scheduled to be in Indiana this weekend to meet with agriculture producers, she has not planned any public forums with Hoosier families and workers in the coal and electricity industry despite the agency’s recent listening tour on the proposed carbon regulations. Coats is requesting McCarthy return to Indiana to hear from Hoosiers on how the agency’s proposed regulations would affect Indiana businesses and families.
Coats says Indiana produces 88 percent of its electricity from coal-fired sources, providing Indiana families and companies access to affordable and reliable electricity. The coal industry supports more than 2,500 jobs in Indiana and contributes more than $750 million to the state’s economy. The EPA conducted listening tours on its proposed rules across 11 cities and states, but not one was held in Indiana.
The full text of the letter is below:

November 15, 2013

The Honorable Gina McCarthy
Administrator
Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC  20460
Dear Administrator McCarthy:
I understand you will be visiting Indiana in the coming days to meet with Hoosier agricultural producers.  Indiana is one of the nation’s leading agricultural states, and I am pleased you will be discussing issues currently facing Hoosiers in the agriculture industry.  However, I am disappointed that you are not similarly taking time to meet with Indiana families and the state’s coal and electricity industry regarding the impact of the EPA’s proposal to limit greenhouse gas emissions from existing electricity generation plants. 
Coal helps fuel Indiana and the state’s economy.  The state produces 88 percent of its electricity from coal-fired sources, which in turn allows Hoosier families and companies access to some of the most affordable and reliable electricity in the nation.  The industry supports more than 2,500 jobs and contributes more than $750 million to Indiana’s economy.  Our state also has seen significant investments in efforts to reduce emissions from fossil fuel-fired electricity generation and has been a leader in reclamation and restoration on the mining front. 
Given that Indiana is one of the leading states in coal production, coal-fired electricity generation, and clean coal technology, it is alarming the EPA would conduct a series of listening sessions on its proposed greenhouse gas rules without ever listening to the people of Indiana who would be dramatically affected by these regulations. The 11 listening sessions already held by the EPA have been located in some of the largest cities in the country with the least invested in coal.  I respect the perspectives and opinions from the residents of these cities, but believe that the EPA should provide an accessible, live forum for those who reside in areas with a large vested interest in coal, such as Indiana, to express their views. 
The EPA’s proposal not only would increase electricity rates across Indiana, but it would drastically reduce the domestic demand for coal, putting a stranglehold on the mining community in our state.  It is imperative that Hoosiers have their voices heard in this process.
I ask you to respond to these questions regarding the EPA’s listening sessions:

  1. The agency has concluded its listening tour across 11 cities and states.  Is the agency considering holding future hearings in cities and states that actually rely on coal production and coal-fired electricity generation as a critical component of their economy?  If so, when can the public expect such an announcement of additional dates and locations?
  1. If the agency decides against holding future listening sessions, how does the agency intend to ensure all comments, input, and opinions are equally weighed when individuals and companies in these areas are not provided the same forum as provided in the 11completed listening sessions?
  1. The previous 11 listening sessions have been held in cities associated with the EPA’s regional headquarters.  When planning the location of these first 11 sessions, did the agency consider branching out from these regional office locations and holding sessions in other areas? 
  1. What led the EPA to decide against hosting sessions in cities and states with a significant interest in coal production, coal-fired electricity generation, and clean coal technologies?
Again, I appreciate your decision to visit Indiana and hear first-hand from the Hoosier agriculture industry about the impact EPA regulations can have on their operations.  I invite you to return to Indiana to meet with Hoosier families and the state’s coal, electricity and other industries that will be affected greatly by the agency’s proposed rules on greenhouse gas emissions.  I look forward to your timely response to this invitation and the above questions. 
Sincerely,
Dan Coats
U.S. Senator...
   

Man Found Guilty in Infant's Death

A jury in Porter County Friday found a Liberty Township man guilty in connection with the death of his girlfriend's seven-month-old son. Officials say 25-year-old Benjamin Willis II was convicted of two felony charges of neglect of a dependent and battery. Sentencing was set for December 16th. Published reports say the boy died from blunt force trauma to the head....
   

FBI and IRS at Lake Station City Hall

fbi and irs at lake st
(Photo Courtesy of the Times)
Federal agents from the FBI and IRS executed a warrant this morning at Lake Station City Hall. The Times reports the agents would not discuss the nature of their visit, why or even how long they'd be in the city. According to the article, Lake Station's Clerk-Treasure says the FBI and IRS launched a federal investigation in late June and she believes it is in regards to city bond collections that went missing, but was later found in the car of Mayor Keith Soderquist's step-daughter, a former city employee. The Times reports she found almost 16-thousand dollars in a bag, which she turned in to city officials. The state office supervisor reports the missing money, in addition to financial errors were found during a routine annual audit of the city....
   

Possible Armed Assailant Reported at Ball State

1 breaking-news
Police are currently conducting a second sweep of Ball State University's Student Recreation and Wellness Center after a possible armed gunman was reported near campus. An alert was issued by the university late this afternoon and urged staff and students to secure themselves in a safe area until the “all-clear” is given. Several roads around the campus have also been shutdown as a precaution. No further information is available at this time. ...
   

Merrillville Man Found Guilty of Murdering Store Clerk

A 22 year old Merrillville man was found guilty today by a jury for murdering a store clerk in March of 2012. Jeremy Blue will be sentenced on January 16th and faces 85 years in prison for the death of 48 year old Judi-Simpson-Beaver that took place during an armed robbery at Lucky Mart Foods in Merrillville. ...
   

Portage Man Sentenced to 84 Years

A 54 year old Portage man was sentenced to 84 years in prison today. Scott Nicol was found guilty in September on four-counts of molesting two young girls in Portage, from January 2010 to August 2011. ...

   

Five Points Roundabout in Valpo Now Partially Open

City of valpo

The new roundabout at the five-points intersection of Calumet Avenue, Vale Park and Roosevelt Roads in Valparaiso is now partially open. Mayor Jon Costas says, “We can all be more confident in this efficient new traffic circle as it promises to move traffic more quickly and more safely than the 5-way intersection it replaces.”

The city's Redevelopment Commission Executive Director, Stu Summers, says a special dedication and tree-lighting ceremony is planned this weekend, at 4:30 pm Sunday, November 24th, at the Kmart parking lot at the northwest corner of the roundabout. The tree was transplanted from the city park and now sits in the middle of the roundabout. The event is free and open to the public. The entire roundabout should be open sometime Sunday, November 24th.

   

Threat of Severe Weather Possible on Sunday

Mild temperatures on Sunday may be bringing with it the threat of severe weather to northwest Indiana. Dr. Bart Wolf, Associate Professor of Meteorology at Valparaiso University, says he suspects shower and thunderstorm activity in most of northwest Indiana with high winds and no meaningful hail.   As for the possibility of tornadoes associated with this storm, Dr. Wolf says he is not really worried about any tornado activity in our area, as the main threat from those are to the south and east of northwest Indiana.
According to the National Weather Service in Chicago, Sunday's forecast calls for temperatures in upper 60's with a 70-percent chance of rain and thunderstorms, and wind gusts as high as 30 miles per hour at times. ...

   

US Postal Service Reports $5 Billion Loss

us postal service
The US Postal Service is reporting another big loss. ABC News reports the postal service says it lost five billion dollars in the last 12 months - making this the seventh straight losing year in a row. This comes after the agency defaulted last month on a five-point-six billion dollar payment for retiree health benefits. The postmaster general has been begging Congress to pass emergency legislation, restructuring those benefit payments, ending Saturday delivery and finding other ways to offset big drops in revenue from first class mail. ...
   

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