Chesterton Tribune

Residents awake to face storm damage cleanup

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Yesterday afternoon Judy and Jim Ross completed window decorations at Duneland Resale in anticipation of the upcoming Wizard of Oz Festival in Chesterton. The window decoration depicts a tornado along with the main characters, who were taken via tornado from Kansas to the Land of Oz.

Duneland Resale Shop was one of the buildings damaged in what many believe this morning was a tornado - at least until an official weather report is issued.

Across the railroad tracks, the roof of the former Pioneer Lumber building, now Accucast, had sustained damage. Workers were out this morning sweeping debris from the parking lot at Edmonds & Evans Funeral Home across the street from the Resale Shop.

Rosses live a block south from CMS, where they were when the storm hit.

“Only the top of one of our trees was damaged,” Judy Ross said this morning as she and Jim walked around Chesterton Middle School assessing damage there.

“It was an erie feeling,” Jim added.

Sue Franzen, who lives across from CMS, said she was unaware of a tornado until she went outside to see why all the traffic was driving by. She said one man identifying himself as a “storm-chaser” stopped to ask if anyone was hurt.

“That’s when I found out about it,” Franzen said.

Tom Smith, who lives near Dogwood Park said this morning that he went yesterday evening to Wabash and Eighth Street to pick up his grandson and couldn’t get over the traffic created by sightseers.

“The storm reminded me of the one in 1948 that went through Porter and damaged Hageman School” (where Hageman Library now stands).

Many crews were working on clean-up this morning at CMS, where windows were blown out and gutters were flown into trees. One gutter was blown into a tree and remained in the tree under which a vehicle had been damaged by yet another piece of storm debris.

The 4th Street Theater was damaged and a massive tree was downed at the corner of 4th Street and Wabash. This morning crews were working to clear the road.

Meanwhile, down on Brown Ave. and Third Street, where significant damage occurred, Chris Walkons, of Grand Rapids Mich., who works for the National Lakeshore, said he heard a loud noise and went outside in the driveway at 346 Brown Court.

“I saw cyclic motion and ran inside to the bathroom for shelter,” he said this morning as he and others were assessing damage to the neighborhood.

“I was surprised at the damage, it wasn’t that loud,” he continued. “Afterwards there was a dead calm,” he said.

Houses in the subdivision were hit by trees, the roof from the apartment at the corner of Third St. and Brown Ave. was cleaned off the roadway, swept into the front yards of the homes. Residents from the apartment could be seen clearing belongings out of their apartments, headed for shelter with friends and families.

“A tree fell on the roof of my bedroom area,” said Jean Hayes, who added that despite the fast action of the town covering her roof with tarp last night, she spent the night with Pat Scott who lives on Brown Court.

“You know, the air pressure didn’t feel right, before it hit,” Walkons said as they discussed the big event.

“When it was over, neighbors all came out to check on one another, and one of our neighbors who works for NIPSCO went around and turned off our gas as a precaution,” Hayes said.

“I’m thrilled no one was hurt,” Hayes said.

One block south on Third and Michigan, huge trees were uprooted surrounding two corner homes. Some branches hung precariously, ready to fall at anytime.

Brian Babcock, who lives on 19th street arrived with a saw in his hand as this photographer was taking photos of the Holdren’s home on the corner.

“My wife was on the phone talking to Bill’s wife, when it hit,” he said. We came over last night, but are back this morning with coffee and to help,” Babcock said.

Construction workers canvassed the town seeking work, helping residents clean up.

Around 8 a.m. rain was pretty heavy as vehicles were bumper to bumper along Calumet Road. Several trees were downed, one large one in particular that required police to direct traffic as people headed for work. The rain subsided and more people with cameras ventured out and about as did this reporter to see the damage and talk to those affected by the storm.

Rick Hokanson, who now lives in Chestnut Hills, shared his experience of the tornado that hit Porter in 1948. He was about 5 years old and he and his sister were having dinner in the kitchen with their mom.

“My sister had to go potty, so Mom took her out of her high chair and the color outside changed to an eerie yellowish color - the same color as last night - I got scared and ran to Mom. Just as I left the room, the kitchen wall collapsed and then the dining room wall as we headed for the basement.

“My cousins were playing baseball in Hawthorne Park and they were told to hit the dug out. Dick Hokanson tried to get in our house. It took four attempts because the winds were blowing him back, but he made it.

“Dad was on his way home from Porter Grocery Store with ketchup and bread. He was at the corner by Hageman School when it hit, he grabbed the fence to keep from blowing away and he made it home with the ketchup and bread,” Hokanson said with a chuckle.

Last night Hokanson saw the eerie yellow color and told his wife “we’re in for it.” They headed for the basement, but it was all over before they even got to the basement.

Hokanson went out on 11th Street to help direct traffic because lines were down.

“That color is something you don’t forget,” he said.



Posted 8/20/2009