THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
While Southern Indiana escaped the brunt of their force, severe thunderstorms packing tornadoes and heavy winds rolled across Indiana on Sunday, injuring several people and causing widespread damage.
Officials in Clark and Floyd counties reported localized flooding.
Gov. Mike Pence said 12 counties reported either tornadoes or damage after the initial line of storms had traveled midway across Indiana.
“Significant damage has been reported in Lebanon, Indiana, and Washington, Indiana,” Pence said in a telephone interview while monitoring reports from the Emergency Operations Center of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security in downtown Indianapolis.
Damage also was reported in Kokomo and Lafayette, Pence said. He did not have specific details of damage.
The initial line of storms traveled at a ground speed of 50 to 70 mph, Pence said.
The National Weather Service reported a tornado damaged several houses in Washington.
A teacher was injured when a storm heavily damaged Southwestern Middle and Grade School in southern Tippecanoe County, Indiana State Police Sgt. Kim Riley said.
“The gymnasium is basically gone,” and parts of the roof had been blown off, too, Riley said.
“It’s very chaotic,” Riley said.
Tree branches were blown into concrete walls there, said Riley, who went to the scene.
A small barn was blown across Indiana 28 in Montgomery County, and trees and power lines were down across the area, Riley said.
State police reported knee-deep water off Interstate 465 exit ramp lanes on Indianapolis’ east side. The weather service reported 1 1/4 inches of rain fell in a 90-minute period in the Owen County town of Gosport, about five miles southwest of Indianapolis.
The Fountain County Emergency Management Agency reported a truck was blown over on I-74 about 60 miles northwest of Indianapolis.
The weather service says a trained weather spotter measured a wind gust of 80 mph in Crown Point in northwestern Indiana.
At least four people are reported injured from the severe thunderstorms that have swept across Indiana.
Kokomo city development specialist David Tharp says there’s multiple minor injuries there. He did not know how many.
Grant County Emergency Management Director Bruce Bender says one person was injured when two or three mobile homes rolled over at the Summit Village Trailer Park. Bender says four homes have been damaged, including two extensively between Marion and the town of Sweetser.
Indiana State Police Sgt. Kim Riley says a teacher was injured when a storm heavily damaged Southwestern Middle and Grade School in southern Tippecanoe County.
The Indiana Toll Road banned some trucks Sunday because of the threat of high winds. The ban affected triple, long-double and high-profile oversize permit loads.
In Kokomo, police asked residents to stay home and off the streets after city officials declared a state of emergency in the wake of the severe storms.
The city police department sent photos of buildings with roofs torn off, a destroyed bank branch and other updates on its Twitter account Sunday. City officials also took to Twitter to tell residents to clear the way for first responders.
Howard County Emergency Management Director Larry Smith told The Indianapolis Star several people were injured at a local mall where a Christmas tree auction was called off shortly before the storms hit.
Earlier Sunday, dozens of tornadoes and intense thunderstorms swept across the Midwest, causing extensive damage in several central Illinois communities, killing at least three people and prompting officials at Chicago’s Soldier Field to evacuate the stands and delay the Bears game.
“The whole neighborhood’s gone. The wall of my fireplace is all that is left of my house,” said Michael Perdun, speaking by cellphone from the hard-hit town of Washington, where he said his neighborhood was wiped out in a matter of seconds.
“I stepped outside and I heard it coming. My daughter was already in the basement, so I ran downstairs and grabbed her, crouched in the laundry room and all of a sudden I could see daylight up the stairway and my house was gone.”
An elderly man and his sister were killed when a tornado hit their home around noon in the rural community of New Minden, said Mark Styninger, the coroner of Washington County in southern Illinois. A third person died in Washington, said Melanie Arnold of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. She did not provide details.
Steve Brewer, chief operating officer at Methodist Medical Center of Illinois in Peoria, said 14 people had come to the hospital seeking treatment for minor injuries, while another Washington area hospital had received about 15 patients.
About 90 minutes after the tornado destroyed homes in Washington, the storm darkened downtown Chicago. As the rain and high winds slammed into the area, officials at Soldier Field evacuated the stands and ordered the Bears and Baltimore Ravens off the field. Fans were allowed back to their seats shortly after 2 p.m., and the game resumed after about a two-hour delay.
Just how many tornadoes hit was unclear Sunday afternoon. According to the National Weather Services’ website, a total of 65 tornadoes had struck, the bulk of them in Illinois. But meteorologist Matt Friedlein said the total might fall because emergency workers, tornado spotters and others often report the same tornado.