Communities across Indiana reeling in storm's wake

 

Twelve Indiana counties reported serious damage from storms or tornadoes Sunday, and at least three people were injured across the state as a destructive storm cell moved across the Midwest.

As reports of the storm's damage continued rolling in, emergency crews in Kokomo, Lebanon, Washington, Fountain County and other hard-hit parts of the state went to work assessing the damage.

Kokomo

Kokomo appeared to be one of the hardest hit areas in the state, with all of Howard County placed under a state of emergency until 6 a.m. Monday.

Heavy damage was reported to many buildings, including at Kokomo Town Center mall and Louie's Coney Island restaurant, where wind and water caused the roof to cave in.

"It's a lot of damage, but it's in a contained area … it's a pretty clear path so I think we'll be able to manage it the best we can," said Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight.

RELATED: Gallery of images from the storm

Travelers in Kokomo said at one point winds were so heavy they had to stop driving.

"We had to actually pull over at one point. We thought the bus we were traveling in was going to top over, the wind was so fierce and I couldn't see two feet in front of me," said Matt Rankin.

Goodnight said the city has called in every available worker to deal with the situation.

"If this had happened in the middle of the night we might have a different situation at hand," Goodnight said. "I think everyone, news media and the weather stations and the weather watchers, were letting us know all day that this type of situation could happen."

Authorities in Howard County have asked residents to stay off the roads until the state of emergency is lifted at 6 a.m. Monday. The Tippecanoe School Corporation has canceled Monday classes.

Lebanon

A tornado cut a line through the southern portion of Lebanon, beginning with a Starbucks just off I-65 on the city's west side.

Though travelers taking shelter from the storm filled the shop, amazingly, no one was hurt.

RELATED: See dash cam video of that tornado

The storm then took aim at a nearby neighborhood, toppling trees and damaging homes over roughly five blocks.

"It's actually fairly localized in one path," said Lebanon PD Lt. Brent Wheat. "It started on the western side of the city in the southern half, and cut a straight line across the southern part."

Police said 26 homes were damaged by the storm, and seven were declared "non-habitable."

"I saw a bunch of debris in the air and I was trying to get my family in the bathroom, and as soon as I did, that's when it hit and blew my bedroom window out in front of where I sleep," said homeowner Karon Clark.

Dozens of firefighters swarmed the neighborhoods looking for anyone hurt or trapped. Fortunately, no one was.

"My thought was: How many people are hurt in this neighborhood, because I have friends and family over here," said Steven Wagner.

Officials decided not to issue an evacuation order for the city, though they cautioned people not to approach damaged areas after the storm had passed so as not to impede emergency crews. Residents in those neighborhoods, meanwhile, checked on loved ones and searched for belongings and missing pets.

"Our dog was outside and we didn't know the tornado was coming, and looked outside and the tornado was coming right toward us, and our dog is missing," said Alicia Hughes.

On I-65 North, heavy winds tossed a semi-truck onto the interstate from a nearby parking lot and damaged the Subaru-Isuzu plant. Plant officials said all of their employees were accounted for, and none were hurt.

Fountain County

In the small town of Mellott, population only 195, emergency workers were gearing up to spend all of Sunday night examining the damage wrought by storms.

"We don't know yet whether it was straight-line winds or it was actually a tornado," said Fountain County Sheriff William Sanders. "We've heard both. There's a lot of destruction in this town."

Firefighters searched through homes and trailers ravaged by the storm. Fortunately, none of the residents were injured aside from minor cuts and bruises.

In nearby Veedersburg, officials said damage was widespread. Bricks littered sidewalks after being ripped from downtown buildings. Houses were demolished after trees worn torn from the ground and tossed into them by the storm.

"We don't know if it was high winds or a tornado, but it uplifted five trees that went through the house," said Lisa Wood, whose house was destroyed in the storm. "But, in five minutes we had a family down here helping us."

Woods said she and her husband feel extremely lucky to have weathered the storm uninjured.

"He went flying from the living room, dove through the air to the computer room and we got to the hallway at the back door and that was it," Woods said. "We didn't even have time to get to the basement."

Indianapolis

In Indianapolis, heavy winds and rain damaged trees and caused flooding in downtown roadways. And, on the city's east side, a historic Irvington building collapsed under the force of the storm.

RELATED:

See a time-lapse video of the storm rolling over Indianapolis

The oldest building in the historic neighborhood, the former Irvington post office was built in 1903 and had been the target of renovations over the past 18 months. After the storm passed, however, little was left besides rubble and the shell of the building.

"We're a historic neighborhood; we're very proud of that," said Margaret Banning, of the Irvington Development Organization. "This was a labor of love trying to restore this building back to what it had been: a basic commercial building with lots of uses. It used to be a drug store. It used to be the post office. Lots of different uses. Right now it's just a jumble of bricks."

"This was a key corner," Banning added. "They sometimes talk about if you're missing a building, you're missing a tooth. Well, this is the front tooth of our neighborhood."

As wrecking crews arrived Sunday night to finish taking down what was left of the building so East Washington Street could be reopened to traffic, redevelopers said they have no idea what they'll do with the site now.

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