ROLLING PRAIRIE, Ind. – Authorities have identified the 36-year-old driver who was killed when his pickup truck slammed into a charter bus loaded with casino patrons on a northern Indiana highway.
LaPorte County police said the crash happened Wednesday afternoon along snowy U.S. 20 when the truck went out of control and slid into the path of the bus carrying about 50 people back from the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Mich., to Mishawaka.
Police say 15 bus passengers were hurt in the crash near the town of Rolling Prairie, about 15 miles west of South Bend.
County Coroner John Sullivan told The Times of Munster and WNDU-TV that John Kallok of Griffith died at the scene from blunt force trauma.
The sheriff credits the bus driver with keeping it upright after the crash.
Light snow was still falling Thursday morning in northeast Indiana, with numerous crash and slide-off reports in the Fort Wayne area.
The National Weather Service in northern Indiana said early Thursday that Fort Wayne could get 2 to 4 more inches of snow today. The entire region could see blowing and drifting snow.
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The winter storm on Thursday morning bore down on the nation’s Northeast, promising significant snowfall, strong winds and frigid temperatures that will make commutes hazardous for the first work day of the new year.
Snow began falling overnight in parts of New England and New York, but the real brunt of the storm wasn’t expected to hit until later Thursday. As much as a foot of snow or more was forecast for some areas overnight Thursday into Friday, and temperatures were expected to plummet, with some areas seeing highs just above zero, according to the National Weather Service.
“There will be travel problems,” said Hugh Johnson, a weather service meteorologist in Albany, N.Y. “It will be very cold.”
Up to 14 inches of snow is forecast for the Boston area, and the National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for Long Island – where 8 to 10 inches of snow could fall and winds could gust up to 45 mph – from Thursday evening into Friday afternoon.
Some schools in New England and New York closed pre-emptively or planned early dismissals, while cities issued on-street parking bans and homeless shelters were expected to fill beyond capacity.
The storm dropped up to a foot of snow on parts of Michigan and 6 inches or more in Illinois, prompting hundreds of flight cancellations Wednesday into and out of Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, according to the aviation tracking website FlightAware.com. About 1,000 U.S. flights were canceled for Thursday, with O’Hare and New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International most affected.
Sections of interior southern New England and New York could get up to a foot of snow by the time the storm moves out, with forecasts generally calling for 6 to 12 inches. New York City, likely to see 3 to 7 inches, issued a snow alert. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged the city’s commuters to leave their cars at home in case major highways are closed for Thursday’s evening rush hour.
“We are looking at a serious storm situation,” Cuomo said.
Although lesser amounts of snow were forecast to the south, Philadelphia and parts of southern New Jersey were expected to see 3 to 7 inches of blowing, drifting snow.
In Toms River, N.J., Jonas Caldwell said he was prepared for whatever the storm might bring.
“Santa brought me a snow blower, and I’ve got rock salt for the ice, so now I’m just waiting for the storm,” he said while grabbing a coffee at a convenience store.
Caldwell, an investment adviser, said he could work from home if necessary, but he was hoping that wouldn’t be the case.
“There are too many distractions at home,” he said. “But I won’t be stupid ... If it gets as bad as they say it will be, or looks like it will, I’ll be staying put.”
In Hartford, Hal Guy, of nearby Glastonbury, was shopping for snow shovels – three, to be exact.
“We broke a couple in the last storm,” he said. “We have four kids, so, three shovels, and we still have a little one back home.”
Guy said three of his kids, girls ages 8, 10 and 12, have been out of school for two weeks for the holidays and hope to get a couple more days off with the snow.
Over in Maine, where some communities are still recovering from a recent ice storm that cut power to more than 100,000 customers, people seemed prepared for more winter weather.
Kelly St. Denis, of Auburn, went skiing Wednesday at the Sunday River ski area with family and friends. She said it’s been cold but the skiing has been good.
“Hey, it’s winter in Maine,” she said. “We go with it.”
Associated Press writers Wilson Ring in Montpelier, Vt., Holly Ramer in Concord, N.H., and David Sharp in Portland, Maine, and Bruce Shipkowski in Toms River, N.J. contributed to this story. The Journal Gazette added local conditions.