EF-1 tornado slices through county
A tornado ripped through south central Harrison County Friday afternoon, damaging homes, uprooting trees and wreaking havoc on utility poles and power lines.
The tornado flipped two trailers, destroyed barns and rendered many county roads and S.R. 337 impassible in spots due to downed trees, power lines and debris.
‘The whole story and the good news of today is nobody died,’ Sgt. Jerry Goodin, public information officer for the Indiana State Police Sellersburg Post, said in a press conference Friday evening in New Middletown. ‘That’s the good news out of the bad tragedy that happened today.’
Gary Henderson, a New Middletown Volunteer Fire Dept. member, said the only injury was a fellow NMVFD firefighter working a scene who slipped and hurt his knee.
‘He was treated, and he’ll be fine,’ he said.
Clarence Melton, who owns two trailers that were flipped along Payton Road, fell and suffered a bruise to the head.
Melton and his wife brought the family living in the trailer into their home on the back of the property to take shelter in the basement.
‘We’re fortunate this event was localized, on a small level,’ Greg Reas, Harrison County Emergency Management Agency director, said.
Reas thanked everyone who helped, including all of the emergency responders, American Red Cross, The Salvation Army and ‘countless volunteers.’
Warning sirens were sounded throughout the county, but at least two did not work: New Middletown and Elizabeth.
Reas said they were waiting to be repaired.
The EF-1 twister, which reached a peak wind speed of 105 miles per hour, began along Justin’s Trail in Southwind Estates subdivision just west of S.R. 135 south of Corydon at 2:04 p.m. and moved east for about six miles before receding for good at 2:20 p.m.
The tornado caused significant tree damage along Pleasure Ridge Road, where a large tree fell on a garage. Several small funnels from the main funnel did extensive damage, according to the National Weather Service.
Further east, several funnels congealed into one main tornado to do extensive damage to hardwood trees and significant roof damage to several homes.
The tornado reached maximum speed and width (250 yards) around south Pleasant Road, where a pole barn was completely destroyed and a truck and horse trailer was moved 50 feet and twisted.
At the end of Sarabeth Way, there was extensive hardwood tree damage which included uprooted, twisted and mangled trees and snapped healthy hickory trees.
‘It was so scary,’ Amber Fullmer, who lives on Sarabeth Way and was home during the time, said. ‘I was seriously afraid I wasn’t going to see my family again. I was in my closet trying to not freak out, and my dad called and I just lost it.’
Fullmer has two children who attend New Middletown Elementary School. They were with their child care provider at the time, in another area of New Middletown that wasn’t hit by the tornado.
Farther east, on Sinker Road, there was an impressive cyclonic crop damage across a corn field with corn laying in every direction, the NWS report said.
‘On Simler Road, there was consistent snapped tree damage, and we observed a camper that had been tossed and flipped over … ‘ the report continued. ‘During the final stages of the tornado, it struck homes along Payton Road, flipping over single-wide trailers, lifting the roof of a barn and doing extensive tree damage. Parts of the barn, including insulation and sheet metal, were thrown into the trees.’
Officer Mike Kurz of the Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept. said he followed the tornado once he heard it had touched down near S.R. 135. It was easy to catch up to, he said, because all of the cars on the road were pulled off to the side.
‘I got a little too close a couple times,’ he said of the tornado.
Kurz said it would stay on the ground for a time then go back up only to drop back down again.
Emergency responders jumped into action, with the Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept., Emergency Management Agency, Emergency Medical Services, Harrison County Highway Dept., New Middletown Volunteer Fire Dept. and other fire department officials setting up a command center at the New Middletown fire station.
Sheriff Rodney (Rod) Seelye took a group of inmates to help clear roads.
All roads were open for traffic later Friday evening.
Corydon Central High School organized a number of students to help with debris pick up on Sunday and Monday.
Harrison REMC had all crews active to try to restore power.
The fire station shifted from a command center to a community/shelter providing meals, snacks, water and other household needs to displaced families.
The tornado was the first in the county since Jan. 30, 2013, when an EF-0 touched down east of Elizabeth.
It was the largest twister since May 28, 1996, when an F-2 passed through one mile south of New Middletown.
The May 30, 2004, tornado that hit the Marengo area was an F-3.
Here is a link to the National Weather Service’s summary of Friday’s severe weather.