Indiana residents assess damage from Sunday’s storms
By TOM MURPHY The Associated Press November 18, 2013 1:08PM
The home of Phyllis Rawlins is destroyed home in Kokomo, Ind., Monday, Nov. 18, 2013. Sunday's storm picked up Rawlins' Victorian-style house and moved it about 100 feet, leaving a 15-foot pile of debris on nearby train tracks. Rawlins says her granddaughter and about five other members of a church group fled to the basement when the storm hit. She says her granddaughter suffered a broken ankle, and the other youths had cuts and broken bones. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
Updated: November 18, 2013 6:06PM
KOKOMO — The buzz of chain saws cut through the chill Monday as shaken Indiana residents began cleaning up from at least 10 tornadoes that carved an angry path of destruction across 12 counties, injuring dozens but miraculously sparing lives.
Gov. Mike Pence toured several storm-tossed communities as state officials began assessing the damage to determine whether to seek federal disaster aid.
“I haven’t seen such devastation in a long, long time,” Pence said in hard-hit Kokomo, where at least 32 people were injured and about 50 homes were destroyed.
The storms that hit Indiana on Sunday were part of a wave of severe weather that killed six people in Illinois and two in Michigan.
The National Weather Service said its preliminary findings indicate that at least six EF2 tornadoes packing wind speeds of 111 to 135 mph struck Indiana. They included a 10-mile-long tornado that hit Kokomo, a 75-yard-wide twister in Boone County, a 100-yard-wide tornado in southwestern Indiana and one in Grant County.
Tornadoes also were reported in three southern Indiana counties and in Jasper County to the north.
The storms cut power to thousands, tore off roofs, damaged schools and left mountains of debris where homes once stood.
About 30,000 homes and business, mostly in northern and central Indiana, remained without power Monday. Several school districts canceled or delayed classes because of power issues or damage.
Damage ranged from a 110-year-old post office in the historic Indianapolis community of Irvington to grain silos, houses, factories and a coffee shop in places including Lafayette, Lebanon, Washington and Vincennes.
The storm that hit Kokomo was the worst to hit the city since a deadly tornado on Palm Sunday in 1965, the Kokomo Tribune reported.
“In my lifetime, this is the worst tornado we’ve ever experienced,” said Mayor Greg Goodnight, who was born a few days after the 1965 twister.
Even so, many residents counted their blessings as they searched for belongings amid the wreckage.
Phyllis Rawlins, 59, said losing the two-story Victorian-style house she and her late husband built about eight years ago was hard, especially since the storm came about a year after her husband’s death.
“This is a severe loss, after losing him,” she said.
But she was grateful that her granddaughter, Chelsea, and friends from church survived. They were in the house when the storm struck and got to the basement just before the tornado lifted the house, moving it 100 feet away onto train tracks.
Chelsea suffered a broken ankle, and the others had broken bones and cuts, Rawlins said.
Patsy Addison, a 62-year-old homemaker, also was feeling fortunate. She sought shelter in a hall closet in her home Sunday and didn’t have time to close its door before a large maple tree crashed through her home.
The tree landed less than a foot from the closet, showering Addison with insulation but leaving her injured.
“The tree was where I was standing seconds before,” she said Monday. “I’m thankful to God that I’m still here.”
“Houses can be rebuilt,” Robert Addison said Monday.