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Policy Change Means No More 1st Baby Announcement

With the new year comes another reminder that times are changing. A long-standing tradition of announcing first baby born in Porter County has come to an end at Porter Regional Hospital, where officials cite new policies regarding safety and risk management.
In Lake County, first baby of the year was born at 12:37 am Wednesday. Anthony Michael Valsi entered the word at Franciscan St. Anthony Health in Crown Point, the first child for parents Melissa and Eric Valsi of Crown Point.   ...

Plow Drivers Battle Heavy Snow, Winds

The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) says heavy snowfall during the past 24 hours has made for difficult driving conditions on most interstates, U.S. highways, and state routes across the area, despite a full callout of plow trucks on the roads.  More than 170 INDOT plow drivers have been on the roads across INDOT's Northwest Indiana District since the snow began to fall. Route cycles result in plow trucks treating lanes every 2 to 3 hours, but ongoing continuous snowfall and strong winds, especially in the rural open areas, make clearing pavement especially challenging.  INDOT says alternating 12-hour shifts of plow drivers will continue as long as necessary and resources will be adjusted as needed to keep highways open and as safe as possible.
More info from INDOT:
Motorists should expect difficult driving conditions, and should avoid unnecessary travel. Always give snow plows room to safely do their work, adjust speed according to weather and road conditions, don’t follow too closely, and brake early and slowly.
Drivers in Northwest Indiana can monitor road conditions and traffic alerts at any time via the District’s social media channels: or Twitter @INDOTNorthwest. Or visit for INDOT’s TrafficWise Traveler Information Service....

South Shore Passengers Advised of Email, Text Svc

The operators of the South Shore line today are advising passengers of ways to keep in contact with the commuter line in light of today's snow. The South Shore's 800 number remains out of service pending reprogramming to the RTA's new travel center vendor, and the RTA is experiencing higher call volumes due to the snow storm, so callers may encounter a busy signal. Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) says a free text and email alert service are available at their website, . ...

Indiana Search Enters Day Five for Illinois Woman

Today marks day five in the search for a missing Des Plaines Illinois woman officials say disappeared in flood waters in southwestern Indiana.  Officials say 31-year-old Cathryn McGill was a passenger in a vehicle being driven by her husband 35-year-old Adam when their pickup truck was swept off the roadway in flood waters on Highway 257 Sunday morning. Adam McGill was rescued but his wife couldn't be found. Indiana Conservation Officers say they were hopeful Wednesday after flood waters drastically receded and partially exposed the Chevy Colorado driven by the McGill’s, but new obstacles also came into view, including large debris piles mostly made up of corn stalks and trees.  Officers and members of area fire eepartments spent the day completing shore and boat-based searches along with deploying divers to search the debris piles. Officers also deployed a remote operated vehicle with sonar capabilities.  Search operations were set to resume shortly after daylight today.  [Photo/courtesy Indiana Conservation Officers]...

Lake Effect Now, 'Polar Plunge' for Region Temps Coming

Portions of Northwest Indiana are bracing for lake effect snowfall today and Friday.  We have a Lake Effect Snow Warning through late tonight for Lake County here in the Region, and a newly-issued Lake Effect Snow Advisory for Porter County this afternoon through early Friday.  Meteorologists say the potential exists for "intense snow squalls" to develop which could result in greatly reduced visibility and very hazardous travel conditions.  North to northeast winds of 15 to 25 mph with gusts up to 30 mph will also create the hazard of blowing and drifting snow.  Additional snowfall is possible over the weekend, then dangerously cold temperatures are expected Sunday night, Monday and Tuesday, with readings of 12 below zero, before the wind chill, possible Monday night.
Chicago National Weather Service website:
Northern Indiana Weather Service website:

NIRPC Offers Clean Air Tips for Winter

Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) is encouraging northwest Indiana residents to take simple steps to improve air quality during the winter months. Kathy Luther, Director of Environmental Programs for NIRPC, says a lot of times we think more about air quality in the summer, “because that's ozone season, but we also have air quality issues with fine particulates,” tiny bits of soot and particles in the air and something Luther says we need to be thinking about year round.   Particulate matter, a mixture of microscopic solids and liquid drops of pollution suspended in the air, can come from burning in fireplaces, wood stoves and idling cars. “Taking small, simple actions this winter can help to improve the air quality of our region.”  
Tips for improving winter air quality include:
    Replace manual thermostats with a programmable thermostats
    Inspect heating ducts and change air filters in your heating system
    Reducing vehicle idling
    Use alternative transportation whenever possible
    Properly maintain your vehicle through regular oil changes and maintenance services
    Switch to electric snow removal products instead of gas-powered products
    Replace disposable batteries with rechargeable ones to prepare for winter storm outages
Hear our interview with Kathy Luther at News Audio on Demand here at our website.
Additional info from NIRPC:
Partners for Clean Air is a coalition of Northwest Indiana businesses, industries, local governments, and community groups committed to raising awareness. To learn how your organization can be a part of Partners for Clean Air, please visit
Northwest Indiana CleanAir is a partnership between the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission and the people and business of Northwest Indiana to help all residents Think Green & Breathe Easy — understanding and inspiring action to continue improving the air quality of our unique region. To learn more, visit
Also for more info:

Franciscan Applauds Ruling on Health Care Provision

A federal judge in northern Indiana has ordered a halt on a new federal health care provision that Franciscan Alliance says infringes on religious rights. US District Judge Jon DeGuilio granted a preliminary injunction blocking a federal mandate that would have required the northwest Indiana hospitals and health care facilities to provide contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs free-of-charge to their employees in the new year.
"We simply asked that the government not impose its values and policies on plaintiffs, in direct violation of our religious beliefs," said Kevin Leahy, president/CEO of Franciscan Alliance.
“Franciscan Alliance is proud of its heritage as a Not-For-Profit Catholic Health Care Corporation dedicated to is Mission of Continuing Christ’s Ministry in Our Franciscan Tradition,” said Sister Jane Marie Klein, chairperson of Franciscan Alliance’s Board of Trustees “We have adhered to the tenets of the Catholic faith and continue to look to our sponsor, the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, for guidance in continuing its 138-year history of providing health care to those we are privileged to serve in the United States.”
DeGuilio in his ruling noted exempting churches from the mandate but not their affiliated nonprofits would require them to, quote, "facilitate and serve as the conduit through which objectionable contraceptive products and services are ultimately provided to their employees, in violation of their unquestionably sincerely held religious beliefs," end quote. Franciscan joined with six other religion-based nonprofits in Indiana and Illinois in filing suit, citing constitutional protection under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act....

Lake County Man Killed in Crash

Officials say a Griffith man was killed and fifteen other people were hurt in a collision involving a bus and a pickup truck on US 20 near County Road 450 East in far northeast LaPorte County in the Rolling Prairie area Wednesday afternoon. LaPorte County Coroner John Sullivan says the driver of the truck, 36-year-old John Kallok, was pronounced dead at the scene from blunt force trauma. LaPorte County Sheriffs Police say at about 3:15 pm  Kallok was westbound when he lost control of his vehicle and struck an eastbound bus carrying about seventy patrons from a casino in New Buffalo, Michigan, to Mishawaka. Police say injuries to those on the bus were not considered life-threatening. The crash remains under investigation, but police believe slick road conditions were a factor....

Search to Continue Wednesday for Missing Illinois Woman

missing des plaines woman
(Photo Courtesy of the Indiana Conservation Police)
Indiana Conservation Officers concluded their search efforts at dark this evening for a missing 31 year old Des Plaines, Illinois, woman, but say search operation will resume shortly after daylight tomorrow morning. Cathryn McGill was a passenger in a vehicle being driven by her husband 35-year-old Adam McGill when their pickup truck was swept off the roadway in flood waters on Highway 257 Sunday morning. Adam McGill was rescued but his wife couldn't be found. Conservation Officers have located what they believe to be the McGill's Chevrolet Colorado submerged in water, about 75 yards from the roadway. Adam McGill was released from the hospital Monday after being treated for hypothermia....

Pope Francis Asks Faithful for Self Reflection in New Year

Pope Francis
The leader of the Roman Catholic Church asks for some self reflection this New Year. ABC News reports in his first year end prayer service at St. Peter's in Rome, Pope Francis urged people to ask themselves if they furthered their own interests, or helped others, in the past year. In his homily, the Pope asked people to reflect on whether or not they made the place they lived more liveable and welcoming. He cited Rome as a city bustling with tourists, but also one with many refugees, unemployed and underemployed people, who have the right to fair treatment, he said and to be helped by others more fortunate....

Gary Man Leads Police on High-Speed Chase

A 30 year old Gary man was arrested Monday and charged with burglary, auto theft, resisting law enforcement and reckless driving. The Times reports a relative went to tend to the homeowner's cat just before 2:30pm, in the 600 West block of County Road 650 South, when she reported seeing the door open and a man inside. The woman then went to a neighbor's and contacted police, who were given a description of the vehicle the suspect fled in. Officers later located the suspect vehicle and a pursuit reaching speeds of 90 miles per hour ensued until a rolling road block ended the pursuit and the suspect was taken into custody at gunpoint. ...

IU Health to Treat UnitedHealthcare Patients as In-Network

IU Health
IU Health and UnitedHealthcare have been in negotiations to settle on a new agreement for 2014 before the contract expiration date on December 31, 2013. A new agreement has not yet been finalized and discussions will continue in January.  Therefore, on January 1, 2014, IU Health and IU Health Physician doctors and facilities will become out of network for most patients covered under UnitedHealthcare health insurance.
IU Health has made the decision to treat UnitedHealthcare patients and their portion of the bill as ‘in-network’ as of January 1, 2014, to help avoid disruption of care and help reduce the patient’s overall costs. 
“This decision is consistent with our commitment to ensuring patients have access to nationally recognized care,” said Dr. John C. Kohne, chief medical officer, Indiana University Health.  “We know patients value the relationship with their physician and health care team, and we want to help them maintain those relationships without unnecessary disruption.”
This special ‘in-network’ status means that UnitedHealthcare patients may continue to receive care from IU Health doctors and IU Health facilities, but are responsible for any in-network deductible and co-pay fees. This special in-network status will apply to the portion of a patient’s bill that is based on the 2014 benefit levels.           
No immediate steps are required to receive this in-network status.  Patients are encouraged to schedule appointments and visit care providers as they normally would.  If a patient sees their IU Health provider and receives a statement that includes fees higher than anticipated (out of network fees, for example), they should call the number listed on the statement and the fees will be adjusted to in-network costs. 

In the meantime, IU Health continues to be committed to working toward an agreement with UnitedHealthCare. ...

University Releases its Annual Banned Words List

"Selfie" might be the word of the year, according to the Oxford Dictionary. But according to Lake Superior State University, it should be banished from the English language. The school released a list of words it never wants to hear again on every New Year's Eve. ABC News reports the language cops at Lake Superior State University hope you'll never say selfie again. That leads the school's annual list of misused, overused or just useless words.  This year's runners up include - twerk, or twerking. Hashtag. Twittersphere. Obamacare. Adversity, in the context of sports. And any word ending in geddon or pocalypse....

INDOT: Plan Ahead for Snowy New Year's on the Roads

Indot Logo color
The Indiana Department of Transportation reports they are ready for the snow. INDOT says crews were rotating shifts to ensure a full call-out is available 24 hours a day until all the roads are clear. Drivers pre-treated highways this morning and once the snow begins to fall, crews will be plowing and treating interstates, US highways and state roads, to make sure roadway conditions are as safe as possible.

INDOT says those driving tonight, and into the early morning hours of New Year's Day, could potentially be doing so during the height of this winter storm, so they suggest that if you do not need to be on the roads, don't venture out. If you must travel, take it slow and allow plenty of room between vehicles. The Winter Weather Advisory continues until 10am tomorrow morning and total accumulations for northwest Indiana could be anywhere from six-to-nine inches by Thursday....

Semi Catches Fire a Second Time on I-65

semi fire on I-65
(Photo Courtesy of Indiana State Police Lowell Post)
All lanes of northbound I-65, near Ridge Road, were closed for about four-hours this morning due to a semi fire. Indiana State Police says, just before 3:30am, a semi, stopped in the right lane because of a previous crash, was struck from behind by a semi that had also been struck from behind. The second semi's trailer, loaded with 26-thousand pounds of clothing, caught fire as the driver was being extricated. The driver of the second and third semi, along with their co-drivers, were transported to St. Mary's Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries. State Police report as the semi that caught fire was being towed away, it caught fire again on southbound I-65, just south of US 30, causing the two right lanes of I-65 to be closed south of US 30 for 20 minutes. ...

Porter Health System CEO Leaving

The St.Vincent Health Board of Directors today announced that Jonathan Nalli will serve as the new CEO of St.Vincent Health, effective February 1, 2014.  Indianapolis-based St.Vincent Health is a 22-hospital system, and one of the largest employers that serves central and southern Indiana.
Since 2007, Nalli has been CEO of Porter Health System, a Community Health Systems affiliate in Valparaiso.  Nalli oversaw construction of a new 238-bed regional hospital, opening in August 2012 at US 6 and State Road 49, about eight miles north of its former long-time home, where the facility was once known as Porter Memorial, on LaPorte Avenue in downtown Valparaiso. [Photo provided]
“As a proven healthcare executive with vast experience in growth management strategies, improvement plans and demonstrable results in achieving business objectives, we look forward to Jonathan leading the transformation of our business and building on the successes of our ministry,” said Vincent C. Caponi, executive chairman of the board for St.Vincent Health.
Prior to Porter Health, Nalli was chief operating officer of Chestnut Hill Health System in Philadelphia. for two years. In addition, he served as chief operating officer of Pottstown Memorial Medical Center in Pottstown, Pennsylvania....


Looking Back Briefly at 2013 in Region News

With the New Year just about upon us, we look back at just a few of the stories making Region News in 2013...
Region planners approve the long-discussed Illiana Expressway, an important step in getting federal dollars for the project.
In Gary, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson requests state help in fighting an upswing in homicides and violent crime
Democrat Joe Donnelly is sworn in as Indiana's newest US Senator, replacing six-term Republican incumbent US Senator Richard Lugar
Lake County adopts a local income tax, the last county in the state to do so.
Longtime Lake County Surveyor George Van Til pleads guilty in federal court and resigns from office after being accused of using county employees to do campaign work
A crash near Crown Point kills a Northwest Indiana newlywed hours after his wedding and the stranded motorist he had stopped to assist, a Hobart school teacher
In Merrillville... days after moving into their home in October, a family of four was found dead, the apparent victims of carbon monoxide poisoning
A new bridge opened this winter, replacing the 1930s era landmark known as the Nine-Span on Indianapolis Boulevard, linking Hammond and East Chicago
Fire destroyed a historic building at Lincolnway and Michigan in downtown Valparaiso in March, and another fire in July broke out in the large Victorian-style building that housed Needle and Thread at Jefferson and Lafayette
Most WiseWay stores in the Region became Strack and Van Til stores, and PayLow locations were converted into Ultra Foods early in the year.... Strongbow Inn in Valparaiso was sold to Hobart-based Luke Company
And in July, the miraculous rescue of a six-year-old boy swallowed up by a sand dune at Mount Baldy in Michigan City....

Indiana City Ringing in 2014 with Watermelon Drop

In downstate Vincennes, Indiana's oldest city, residents plan to celebrate New Year's Eve with their sixth annual Watermelon Drop.  Fourteen Knox County watermelons will be dropped from the "Great Watermelon" -- an 18-foot 500-pound structure with a trapdoor that releases the actual watermelons onto a "splatform" below. City officials say since its creation in 2008, the giant watermelon has become a star attraction in Vincennes, even being featured in the community's July 4th and Christmas parades. People also enjoy sharing photographs and YouTube videos of themselves standing next to the 18-foot-long watermelon throughout the evening.  [Photo Vincennes/Knox County Convention and Visitors Bureau]...

Lawsuit Filed Over New District Map

A lawsuit has been filed in LaPorte County court over Porter County's new map. Earlier this month, the Porter County Board of Commissioners approved a redistricting plan that resulted in removing current 2nd District Councilman Jeremy Rivas from his district. The four redrawn districts are all on the ballot next year. The newly-drawn lines, the board said, shrink population differences between the districts, as per a state law requiring the populations to be as equal as possible. Attorney Edward Hearn filed the suit on behalf of five plaintiffs, including Rivas. The suit alleges that two districts are no longer contiguous as required by state law.  A hearing has been set for January 7, 9 am, before LaPorte County Circuit Judge Thomas Alevizos.  Candidate filings for the 2014 primary election open January 8....

Motorist Saved by Off-Duty Officer, Tow Truck Driver

LaPorte County Sheriffs Police Officer Rashaun Sinclair
LaPorte County Sheriff Mike Mollenhauer says he plans to recognize the efforts of an off-duty LaPorte County Sheriffs Police officer and local tow truck driver who together resuscitated a 72-year-old Hanna man at the scene of an accident in Wanatah. Police tell the Times that Officer Rashaun Sinclair and 58-year-old Leonard Petrone, co-owner of John's Garage in Wanatah were at the scene of a crash Saturday on US 30 near County Road 900 West when another accident occurred less than a mile away and they heard the man was non-responsive. They found Leonard Marks Jr not breathing and worked together to save his life, performing CPR. The man was last reported as critical but stable at a Chicago-area hospital.  [Photo/LaPorte County Sheriffs Department]
Link to Times article:


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Region News Team
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