Chesterton Tribune

Storm images: Inside out umbrella, flying shed, swirling debris

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By VICKI URBANIK and MARGARET L. WILLIS

Jacob Smith learned from school what to do in the event of a tornado, and that knowledge certainly paid off for the 15-year-old Wednesday night.

Smith, a resident of the apartment complex at Third Street and Brown Avenue, was watching television when he saw the storm warnings scroll across the screen. He looked out and saw a yellow-green color sky, then took refuge in a kitchen broom closet, holding a pan securely over his head. And there in the closet he waited out the storm. He, like his neighbors, then discovered large chunks of the apartment complex roof had been torn away.

Flat on the Ground

Nearby, Jim Moranto had just parked his truck at his home on Brown Court. He heard a roar, looked over his shoulder, and saw what appeared to be a funnel cloud. Thinking that the cloud was moving west, he began running east, but he didn’t get very far. He saw flying debris -- large pieces of debris including a commercial-grade air conditioner -- when he decided it was time to lie flat on the ground. What seemed to be the worst of it then passed over him.

No Broken Glass

Bobbi Blunk of N. Third Street said the heavy winds blew her front door open. It also blew out a window “frame and all.” She then saw what appeared to be a tornado outside of her north window.

After the storm passed, she found that her window had landed in her yard. Amazingly, the glass was intact. Her father then put the window back in place to keep the rain out.

Swirling Debris

Brenda Stewart of Pinney’s Court heard what sounded like a freight train. It wasn’t long before her front door was blocked by a fallen tree.

Her basement has a large window, where Brenda, her husband John and kids waited and watched the storm pass by. They were able to see a mass of swirling debris over the Coffee Creek floodplain behind their home. After the storm, they assessed the damage -- with a number of large trees having fallen to the ground or sheared off.

Just Wind

Chuck Roth, owner of Chesterton Feed & Garden Center, had just returned to his store from a trade show in Chicago. His store was already closed, but he wanted to check on some things in the nursery. “All of a sudden, it started pouring,” he said. The wind blew through quickly enough, and Roth noticed that numerous goods had tipped over. Looking out his front and back doors, Roth figured that what had passed through was just a “heavy wind.” He then started driving home and came across downed trees, blocked roads, and a swarm of emergency vehicles. It was only then he realized that what had just hit was more than just a wind. “We were very, very lucky,” he said of the impact on his store.

In the Path

Nancy Collins doesn’t care if authorities determine that what ripped through town wasn’t a tornado. “I can tell you that we had a tornado because I saw it,” she said.

Collins, who lives on Wabash Avenue, said she and family members saw the massive rotation with debris being sucked into it over the clearing of trees across the street. “We were out in the garage when the TV screen went gray and the tornado warning came on. It was at that moment that we went outside and could see the funnel cloud. We ran for the house as the winds were roaring. Our patio table and umbrella were falling over on us as we ran by. We got inside and headed down the basement stairs. Once we got downstairs everything became quiet again. We came back up and saw the damage.”

A tree was down on the fence in the backyard and part of the front tree was also down. The patio umbrella was inside out. Collins ran down the street to check on her brother, who also had tree damage.

Resale Shop Closed

The Duneland Resale Shop on Broadway Avenue sustained massive damage to the building’s exterior, and the roof over the section for donation intakes was destroyed, said volunteer Dan Johnston.

But inside, no goods were damaged. When this morning’s rain came through, water came in through the ceiling. Volunteers Mike Anton and Ann Howard put out buckets to catch the water. But within a short time, the interior looked “exactly like it did when we closed up yesterday,” Johnston said.

The nearby hut where the Resale Shop keeps items in storage lost a good portion of its roof, Johnston said, but no Resale Shop items were damaged.

The resale shop was closed today, but Johnston said the board of directors was expected to decide later today if the shop will reopen tomorrow.

Back to Normal

Across the road on Broadway, the Edmonds & Evans Funeral Home was also in the line of the severe wind.

An employee said the fencing in the back of the facility was damaged, and a shed actually flew up onto the roof, with pieces of the shed scattered about.

But the funeral home got everything cleaned up and was operating as normal this morning.

 

Posted 8/20/2009