Staff Reports

Straight-line winds with a 90 mph velocity during the peak of Friday night’s storm caused much of the damage in Bartholomew County, the National Weather Service has determined after examining the impact.

The wind speed during the storm, which could have varied 5 to 10 mph above or below the average velocity, was comparable to what an F1 tornado is capable of producing, said Shannan Hinton, Bartholomew County Emergency Management director.

However, investigators with the National Weather Service who looked at the damage Monday in eastern Bartholomew County said there was no indication of a tornado, with the damage showing debris heading in all the same direction along a line, which is indicative of straight-line winds.

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With a tornado, debris would be scattered in opposite directions and a definite path would be visible where a tornado had traveled along the ground, she said. Emergency management and National Weather Service did not find a path of a tornado, she said.

However, three locations indicate a weaker funnel attempt with no touchdown in the hardest-hit areas of Clifty Creek, Base Road and Highland Ridge.

The most damage occurred in locations where there was nothing to obstruct the high winds, with straight-line winds plowing into isolated outbuildings, barns and grain bins in the county, Hinton said.

More than 10 structures in Bartholomew County were damaged or destroyed, she said.

Describing it as a “wide-wind event,” Hinton said the breadth of the damage was at times three miles across the east side of the county.

Cleanup continued into a third day Monday throughout the county, including on the west side of Columbus and Bartholomew County, which also had tree damage and power outages.

At least one county homeowner reported extensive leaks from roof damage to a home, Hinton said. Some residents were delaying cleanup until their insurance companies had time to inspect the damage, however, she said.

Landlocked by fallen trees

Jon Tekulve, who lives with his wife Judy in western Bartholomew County at 8630 W. County Road 275S, said the storm caused four large trees to fall on the road.

“There was no way to get around anything,” Tekulve said.

The storm caused several branches to go through the decking and attic area of his residence, while a chain-link fence was also damaged, he said.

Tekulve called some friends and relatives to tell them about the damage, which resulted in 10 to 12 people showing up to lend a hand. The help included his brother-in-law, Brad Sharp, and nephew Steven Axsom. The downed trees were removed using items chainsaws, crowbars and chain straps, he said.

Tekulve said he’s thankful for the generosity of those who stepped up to help.

“It’s just mind-boggling that people would come out and do that for us,” he said. “I can’t thank them enough.”

Trees crush pair of vehicles

In the eastern part of the county, Mark Ciesiolka could feel his ears pop from the pressure of the approaching storm while in his home at 9130 E. County Road 50N.

After another family member said she experienced the same thing, Ciesiolka said he looked south, where he could see a farm at 9170 E. Base Road across a field.

“I saw a barn swirl up and fall apart,” Ciesiolka said. “I mean, it spun. It was moving fast toward us, so we took cover.”

Once the storm passed, Ciesiolka walked outside to see a tree in his front yard had crushed two of his vehicles: a Dodge Grand Caravan and a Hyundai Santa Fe.

Among rural areas along County Road 50N and Base Road, several homes and outbuildings showed some form of roof damage. Downed trees and fallen limbs were widespread.

Eric Scheidt, who lives at 10465 E. 100S, said his insurance agent, Ray Burbrink, of Bartholomew County German Mutual Insurance Co., came out to take pictures and start a claims process Saturday morning. Scheidt said the extent of his damage was to a carport and a 40- by 60-foot agricultural building on his property.

Culver’s manager gets into action

A manager at Culver’s restaurant in Columbus looked out for customers and employees during Friday’s storm, sending them into the restrooms and a walk-in refrigerator.

Amanda Kern, who has worked for Culver’s for almost nine years, said she instructed her employees and about 15 customers to move to the back of the store. She made that call after looking at the clouds outside, Kern said.

Eight or nine people opted to leave the store, but all of the remaining customers followed her directions, Kern said.

Kern, who said customers and employees were in the back for about 15 minutes before they received an all-clear, said safety was her top priority. The tornado siren went off when they were in the back area, she said.

“They knew it was for their safety. People were calm and that’s why we had them back there,” Kern said.

Before the storm hit, Kern had alerted employees where they should go and to make sure they knew what to do, she said.

Delayed reaction

Closer to Columbus near the Knollwood Addition, Craig Rice of 5430 E. County Road 50N felt fortunate that Friday’s storm came through his property without any significant damage.

But after the weekend was over, a weakened tree across a drainage ravine on his neighbor’s property fell over early Monday morning.

When the tree came down, it knocked down a large section of roof line gutters, busted out a window and caused minor roof damage, Rice said.

Restoring power

Nearly 10,000 utility customers in south central Indiana lost power because of the storm.

As many as 6,500 Duke Energy customers in Bartholomew, Brown and Monroe counties were without power over the weekend. Bartholomew County REMC had 3,000 customers without power at the height of the storm on Friday, but was down to six customers without power on Sunday.

Duke Energy completed restoring power throughout Bartholomew County by Sunday night, but went back to work Monday clearing up random outages reported by three customers after the weekend.

Duke spokesman Chip Orben said the utility called in about 55 contractor crews to help restore power Friday night through Sunday.

Bartholomew County REMC was also cleaning up a few power outages that were reported Monday. Spokewoman Marty Lasure said four, two-person REMC crews were out working, along with crews from Johnson County REMC, Hendricks Power and Nine Star Connect of Greenfield.

Republic reporters Mark Webber and Matthew Kent and assistant managing editor Julie McClure contributed to this report.