Seems like there are plenty of tales of narrow escapes being told about the two apparent tornadoes which touched down in Scott County early Wednesday morning, March 1.
Sherland Burrow had fallen asleep in the south-most bedroom of her home Tuesday night, February 28, but her dog was restless. She finally coaxed her pet to follow her and went back to bed in a northwest bedroom. The heavy rain and hail pelting her home on South Underwood Road woke her up around 6 a.m.
“I was standing at the (west) window looking out at the road with my dog beside me, and the next thing I knew, I was on the floor with twigs and limbs all around us,” she recalled, still trembling slightly. Two trees sharing space by her driveway had fallen over and slammed into the bedroom’s roof and ceiling. The impact site literally looked as squashed as a marshmallow.
“Missed me by that much,” said Burrow, spacing her thumb and fingers perhaps four inches apart. “God was looking out after me this morning.” She said she crawled out of the debris.
That sentiment was echoed again and again by survivors of the two storms, which struck right before or right after 6 a.m. One selected a path south of Leota Road and north of Erdman Road. It apparently started its rampage east of Interstate 65, perhaps around Ox and Ray Roads because the Scott County Emergency Management Administration (EMA) office received calls from property owners with damage in that area close to Leota.
The twister picked on tall pines at first, but when it crossed the interstate it knocked over a semi-tractor-trailer traveling southbound and laid down trees on the pavement. Motorists stopped or weaved careful paths through the limbs and around the damaged semi, which was not loaded.
An Indiana State Police spokesman with the Sellersburg post advised the driver was uninjured. It took officers and wreckers three hours to get the rig righted and out of the way. A lot of southbound vehicles switched to U.S. Highway 31 while those efforts were under way.
The south storm took a real liking to Dan and Sue Smith’s farm.
Seeing a reporter approaching him in his yard, Dan Smith smiled and said, “I didn’t want to make the news!” Certainly, not this way.
Winds tore metal siding from an open-ended shed and then picked at the rafters, tossing pieces willy nilly across the yard. It did the same to the couple’s pole barn garage and then attacked the metal barn in which huge tractors were being stored. A piece of glass from a blown-out window was stuck in one of the behemoth’s tires. A wood 2x4 pierced metal left on the building. Two eight-foot sections of siding were carried on down the hill toward U.S. 31. More was twisted in a nearby tree like a grotesque ribbon, clanking loudly in the wind. The playset the couple installed for their grandchildren will have to be rebuilt.
And then there was the old trailer the couple once used as a getaway on the Ohio River. It had been located just north of the tidy farmhouse, which, except for minor damage, wasn’t really harmed at all. “Mom and Dad have been saying they wanted to get rid of that trailer,” advised Tonya Smith Richey, the couple’s daughter. “I guess the storm kinda made that decision for them.”
Richey was there to get her children. She and her husband had decided to take the youngsters to her parents for the night because of the anticipated storms. When the storm struck, Sue was in the basement comforting Madison, her granddaughter. The child was determined to go to the original wood-sided barn to be with “…her babies, all the new calves and their mommas,” explained Sue. None of the animals was hurt; the big barn appeared untouched.
“We’re just glad everyone is all right. We’ll be fine,” noted Dan, adding, “I have good insurance.” That statement is an “inside” joke; Smith is a retired insurance agent.
Leaving swaths of twisted metal in its path, the storm then ripped through the Pigeon Roost Monument site, topping many of its stately pines and damaging the wrought iron fencing around the burial site of pioneers killed in 1812 by raiding Indians.
Next on its menu came a section of South Underwood Road. Winds peeled back a section of roof on one couple’s home. Further north, the storm literally rolled Darrell and Alisha Richey’s home on its roof. Alisha had made it to the bathroom but Darrell had not.
The woman suffered a long cut on her leg, while her husband had a cut near one of his eyes. He drove them to Scott Memorial Hospital to receive treatment.
A relative, Donald Richey, lives just north of them. When winds started rocking his mobile home, Richey said he told his small dog, “Hang on! We’re going for a ride!” Neither Richey nor his pet was injured, but the trailer did go for a 12-inch “ride” off its foundation, he reported.
His mother’s pole barn on the other side of his home had metal siding peeled off. Several relatives had arrived and were picking up the pieces. Across S. Underwood Rd., a neighbor’s boat dock was clipped by yet another pine that had taken to the air.
Sherland Burrow’s home appeared to be the northern-most residence along Underwood Rd. to be affected by the tornado. “I know I’ll be okay, but I am still shaking,” she confessed.
The same storm is being blamed for more twisted trees that fell on Lexington area roads and properties. That area included the small community of Nabb, Tank Pond and South Charlestown Roads as well as sections of Radio Tower, Double or Nothing, Slate Ford, Reeves and Kinderhook Roads. State Road 3 and Stucker, Goodwin, Concord Roads are also on the EMA’s official list.
The twister that touched down northeast of Austin picked on I-65 traffic too and areas in Jennings and Johnson Townships. Homes affected were along Sunnyside, Sanders, Terry, Harrod, Meridian and Jack Morgan Roads.
Just north of the Crothersville/Austin interchange on I-65, a semi-trailer-tractor jack-knifed. The accident jammed traffic flow, but no injuries were reported.
“I couldn’t hardly get here this morning,” advised Scott County Councilman Iva Gasaway. She was attending a Commissioners’ business meeting on the morning of Wednesday, March 1.
Gasaway lives on Harrod Road, one of the most affected. At least seven utility poles that lined the road were broken by the storm. Live electrical lines were down everywhere, and, to top it off, a mobile home in that neighborhood had been rolled by the storm onto the road. Tree debris was everywhere. Residents were among the estimated 5,000 people in Scott, Jackson, Jennings, Lawrence and Washington counties which suffered power outages that morning, according to Jackson County REMC.
At least 1,500 customers of Duke Energy and 1,455 of Clark County REMC were also affected.
More property damage was reported at Hardy Lake State Recreational Area, mostly from downed trees. Hardy Lake Road was closed that day.
Commissioner Bob Tobias was anxious to conclude the meeting at the Courthouse in downtown Scottsburg. “My mom has a tree limb in her dining room. I don’t think she wants it there,” he said. Mrs. Tobias lives on Sunnyside Rd near Hardy Lake. The adjournment of Commissioners took place after they had approved a Local Disaster Emergency Declaration presented by EMA Director Linda Dawson.
Dawson reported at least 35 homes were damaged in the storms. Over two dozen roads were impassable that morning because of downed trees and power lines. Commissioner Kelly Robbins said he had counted about eight vehicles that appeared to have storm damage as he was driving to the meeting. He lives in Finley Township.
The declaration by Commissioners allows EMA, Response Team and law enforcement officers “…all necessary emergency authority for the protection of lives and property of the people of Scott County…” Citizens “…are called upon and directed to comply with the lawful directions of properly identified officers…” during the life of the emergency declaration.
It also allows for communications and requests for assistance and operations to go directly to the Scott County Emergency Operating Center in the basement of the Courthouse. That telephone number is 812-752-0564. Anyone having experienced property loss, no matter how small, because of the storms is urged to call this number as soon as possible.
Noted Greg Ramoni, EMA Deputy Director, “Scott County took a real hit from these storms, more so than any other Indiana county. We need every report of damage to be filed.”
EMA assessments by personnel and trained members of the local Response Team got under way Wednesday afternoon. Those reports will help the team of Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) officials when it arrives in Scott County, possibly by Thursday, March 2.
Remember March 2 five years ago? That was when F4 tornadoes hit Henryville in northern Clark County, extreme southern Scott County, the Marysville area and western Jefferson County. Scott County’s visit from twisters came exactly four years and 364 days later.
Other visitors expected that Wednesday in Scott County by EMA officials included Joe Sullivan of the National Weather Service. Sullivan was to visit sites where the storms blew through and make the official determination if damage was created by tornadoes or straight line winds.
Turning Point Church at 899 West State Road 56 (West McClain Avenue) in Scottsburg opened its doors late that afternoon to offer emergency shelter to people affected by the storms. “Normally, people either want to remain in their homes or they go to relatives to stay. The shelter is a good alternative for those who need a roof over their heads and little or no alternatives available,” said Ramoni. The shelter was operated by the American Red Cross.
In related news, both county schools districts went from no delays to two-hour delays to no school on Wednesday because of the storms’ damage.
Superintendents were reportedly reluctant to delay or call off classes that day because of scheduled ISTEP testing, but EMA information on conditions finally led to the unexpected release from school. At one point, it was reported that Lexington Elementary had no electrical power.
The Salem boys’ 3A sectional was postponed Wednesday night due to the storms. Scottsburg’s Warriors were scheduled to play. The rescheduled night of tournament action took place on Thursday, March 2.