Duke Energy still working on power outages in Columbus

COLUMBUS, Ind. — Duke Energy workers continued efforts Monday to restore power to hundreds of Columbus residents two days after a thunderstorm swept through the city, breaking numerous utility poles, bringing down power lines and causing power outages for more than 24,000 customers in and around the city.

Shortly after 4 p.m. Monday, 105 customers in Columbus remained without power, down from about 735 customers Monday morning, said Duke Energy spokesman Chip Orben.

An online Duke Energy outage map showed that most of the customers without power in Columbus were concentrated in three areas of the city, including many residential properties between Donner Park and 25th Street, as well as some homes near the intersection of North Marr Road and 30th Street and some properties on South Marr Road just south of State Road 46 on the city’s southeast side.

Duke Energy estimated that power would be restored to remaining Columbus residents by 8 p.m. Monday night, Orben said.

The update from Duke Energy came as the National Weather Service preliminarily confirmed that a tornado struck Camp Atterbury on Saturday.

An EF-0 tornado with estimated peak winds of 84 mph briefly touched down around 3:48 p.m. Saturday at Camp Atterbury. EF-0 tornadoes have winds between 65 to 85 mph, and this twister’s path was less than a mile long, according to the NWS.

The steeple of the chapel at the base was blown over and several vehicles were lifted slightly due to the tornado. Plywood debris from the roof of the church was found underneath the tires of the cars, the weather agency said.

While the chapel at the Indiana National Guard base was damaged, the rest of the base is otherwise operational, Lt. Col. Randi Bougere, communications director, said Saturday. Staff at the base are looking for an alternative location for church services, she said.

Two other tornadoes touched down in Brown and Shelby counties.

The first tornado, also an EF-0, touched down five miles south of Princes Lakes in Brown County around 3:40 p.m. Saturday, lasting for two minutes. The twister had estimated peak winds of 84 mph and traveled for about 0.3 miles along Mt. Moriah Road and Persimmon Ridge Road before dissipating, according to the NWS.

The third tornado, an EF-1 with estimated peak winds of 100 mph, touched down in Shelby County about three miles north-northeast of Edinburgh around 3:57 p.m., lasting for 15 minutes before dissipating four miles west-northwest of St. Paul around 4:12 p.m. EF-1 tornadoes can have winds between 86 to 110 mph, the NWS said.

The twister skipped along its entire 13.7-mile path in Shelby County. The damage path had a maximum width of 100 yards in Mt. Auburn, and along its path in the county there were many trees down or uprooted, the agency said.

In Columbus, there was damage in Donner Park, known for its huge trees, and walkers and joggers were stopping there to take photos of splintered tree trunks on Sunday and Monday. Local officials said the northern part of Bartholomew County took the hardest hits from the storm.

Straight line winds were most likely the cause of the damage, with some estimates being at 70 mph to 80 mph during the storm, said Shannan Cooke, Bartholomew County Emergency Management director.

But in terms of power outages, Columbus was the most affected part of state, Orben said.

“Columbus was hit the hardest throughout the state. I can tell you at any one point we had over 60,000 of our customers (without power) statewide, and 24,000 of those were in Columbus,” Orben said.

To speed power restoration, Duke Energy moved employees and contractors over the weekend from its Ohio and Northern Indiana service area to supplement local crews in southern Indiana. The areas most impacted include Bartholomew, Shelby, Monroe, Morgan, Crawford, Brown and Decatur counties.

Orben said some of the broken poles were in older neighborhoods, where poles tend to be located in backyards and other harder-to-reach places, which can “further complicate” efforts to restore power.

“Poles in rear of homes take longer to access as we cannot use our heavy equipment rather have to use specialized equipment,” Orben said. “Many times we have to remove fences as well in order to access our easements and facilities prior to work being completed.”