Tornado tears up homes in Indianapolis

May 31, 2008 9:00:20 PM PDT
Residents cleaned up Saturday after a tornado plowed a trail of destruction through the east side of Indianapolis, but they gave thanks that nobody was killed and that the only injuries were minor. The storm blew through late Friday, ripping roofs off several apartment buildings, snapping trees and toppling power lines. Eighteen people were treated for "very minor" injuries, said John Ball, the area's emergency management director.

"It is a miracle that we didn't have serious injuries or death," he said. "A gentleman told me last night at the shelter that he was lying in bed and heard a rumble, and the roof was gone and he saw the sky."

Winds snapped trees, wrapped metal sheeting around a telephone pole and left a four-block-wide trail of debris about a mile long. Gas station pumps were knocked over, roof shingles shredded, and power lines and tree branches scattered.

The storm knocked out power to more than 100,000 customers. Many thousands remained without power Saturday afternoon, utilities said.

The American Red Cross of Greater Indianapolis housed 170 people overnight in a church gym near a destroyed apartment complex in the city of nearly 800,000.

"Some of these folks came in with the clothes on their backs or pajamas, and they were soaked, too," said spokeswoman Beth Smietana.

More came later Saturday morning to register for help or pick up baby formula, bottles and diapers.

Natasha Prim, who registered for help, said she and her mother had finished dinner and were enjoying a quiet night when she heard tornado sirens followed by silence.

"All of a sudden you could hear the wind picking up, and it just kept getting stronger and stronger," said Prim, 29.

They ran to a closet in the middle of her first-floor apartment and heard the storm tear the roof off.

"It just sounded like 20 trains coming at you," she said. "It seemed like forever, but it was probably 45 seconds at that."

The storm blew out the windows of Latasha Lewis' home, tore a hole through her kitchen roof and ripped her screen door off the front door with the frame still attached. Lewis, 28, fled to her mother's house and managed only to grab some clothes. She also stopped by the shelter for help.

Her 1-year-old daughter, Chardea, played with a stuffed Mickey Mouse doll provided by the Red Cross as people stood in line nearby, waiting to register.

"It could have always been worse," said Latasha's mother, Gwen Lewis. "Thank God, at least we're living."

The tornado was part of a system that swept through the Midwest with heavy rain, high winds, thunder and lightning. Damage was also reported in Illinois, as well as in Ohio, where a tornado destroyed several homes near Arcadia.

Near Washington, D.C., firefighters reported a possible tornado, but no injuries or damage were reported.