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Storms rip across state; residents seek shelter

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A large downed tree completely blocks a road in Columbus after severe storms moved through the area.
A large downed tree completely blocks a road in Columbus after severe storms moved through the area.

Strong winds blew a roof off a barn south of Franklin, and shelters were opened for residents of mobile home communities around Edinburgh as storms and tornadoes rolled through the state Sunday.

With thunderstorm and tornado alerts for communities throughout central Indiana, local public safety officials watched and listened for any dangerous weather in Johnson County.

Wind speeds in Johnson County and across the Indianapolis area reached between 60 and 80 mph Sunday afternoon, National Weather Service meteorologist Dave Tucek said. Officials are trying to verify the number of tornadoes that touched down and so far know of tornadoes that hit Lebanon and Kokomo and of a damage path around Vincennes, Tucek said.

Severe storms did sweep through Johnson County, but aside from a roof that was blown off a barn at 4705 E. County Road 400S near Amity, no major storm damage was reported Sunday afternoon, Johnson County Sheriff Doug Cox and director of emergency management Stephanie Sichting said. No injuries were reported, Sichting said.

Bartholomew County Emergency Management opened four shelters for residents as the storms rolled through, including for people living in several mobile home communities in Edinburgh. Details on which areas were affected weren’t available Sunday afternoon, Sichting said.

“I think we’ve gotten lucky because there’s lots of reports of tornadoes all around us,” Sichting said.

The National Weather Service started providing warnings about Sunday’s severe weather at the end of last week, and on Saturday Sichting spoke with meteorologists to get updates on what they were expecting. She knew the entire state would be under a tornado watch on Sunday and that there was a strong possibility that severe thunderstorms or tornadoes could come through Johnson County, she said.

The meteorologists also warned Sichting that even if no tornadoes touched down, there still would be strong, damaging winds, she said.

While severe thunderstorms and tornadoes aren’t common in November, they’re also not unheard of, Tucek said. In November 2005, for example, 23 people were killed after a tornado struck Evansville.

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