- Associated Press - Thursday, July 3, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Fireworks may be the only lights in the sky in parts of northern Indiana this July 4 holiday.

Thousands of northern Indiana residents were still without power Thursday following massive storms earlier in the week, and some might not have their lights turned back on until Saturday evening.

More than 20,000 homes and businesses remained without power late Thursday. Powerful storms that spawned seven tornadoes in Indiana downed trees and snapped utility poles Monday and Tuesday, cutting power to about 150,000 customers of the region’s two major utilities. Northern Indiana is mainly served by Northern Indiana Public Service Co. and Indiana-Michigan Power.

South Bend was especially hard-hit. I&M; spokeswoman Erica Putt said 29,000 customers there were without power at the outages’ peak. About 8,700 outages remained in the South Bend area about noon, according to I&M;’s website. Putt said Thursday afternoon that the number of outages remaining in South Bend had increased slightly after a tree fell in the city early Thursday, causing a new outage.

About 10,000 of I&M;’s Indiana customers remained without electricity Thursday, and Putt said that it could be 6 p.m. Saturday before power is fully restored, though most customers should have electricity before then.

Amber Benson, of South Bend, said she and the couple she lives with, who have a newborn and 3-year-old, have lost a lot of food without electricity for refrigeration.

“We’ve had to go out and spend money we don’t have buying cans of formula and things like that,” she said. “And they’re not talking about the power being back until Saturday.”

Benson said neighbors living across the street from her have power.

“It’s very frustrating because we’ve all called numerous times to let them know, ‘Hey, we’ve got a newborn.’ And they do nothing. It’s ridiculous,” she said.

She said there are three lines down on the ground a block away with cones and caution tape around them.

NIPSCO spokesman Nick Meyer said at 1 p.m. Thursday about 11,500 customers remained without power, but most of those should have power back on by 10 p.m. Thursday. He said there will still be clusters of homes and businesses without electricity but power should be restored by Friday.

The utility said on its website that many of the remaining outages were in Elkhart, Lake, LaPorte and Porter counties.

NIPSCO warned customers that it had received reports of people impersonating utility employees trying to enter homes. It said utility workers and contractors don’t need to enter homes to do their work and urged people to contact police if anyone tried.

Putt said downed trees and branches were complicating the work of repair crews, and more than 1,000 employees and forestry workers were laboring to clear the debris so utility trucks could get by.

Fences also complicated matters in areas where crews have to go through backyards to reach damaged utility poles, she said.

“In many instances we’re not able to get our trucks onto the property so we have to carry equipment in by hand,” Putt said.


Follow Charles D. Wilson on Twitter: https://twitter.com/_cdwilson

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