Marengo Digs Out From Tornado - News, Weather & Sports

Marengo Digs Out From Tornado

(MARENGO, Ind., May 31st, 2004, 8:45 p.m.) -- Residents began to clear debris and figure out how to rebuild their southern Indiana town Monday, the day after being hit by one of more than a dozen tornadoes that swept across the state.

Storm damage was reported all over the state. Dozens of homes in Marengo were destroyed and one man killed as a tornado with winds that the National Weather Service estimated up to 170 mph blew through the town of 800 people.

The weather service confirmed at least 13 other tornadoes in Indiana -- including two near Evansville, three around Bloomington, four southwest of Indianapolis in Morgan County, one on the south side of Indianapolis, two near Lafayette and one near Anderson.

Shattered remains of homes were scattered about Marengo, with pink housing insulation blowing down the streets under a deep blue sky.

Crews used backhoes and tractors to clear streets and yards as power company workers erected new utility poles in the town about 35 miles northwest of Louisville, Ky.

"Everything we own is gone," Amber Terry said as she picked through the wreckage of her mobile home, which was smashed into a neighbor's house about 20 feet away. She said she, her husband and two young children would move in with her parents.

"Just pick up and start over," Terry said.

Residents used chain saws to cut up scores of fallen trees, including one that fell next to the town's elementary school and mangled its playground equipment.

Cathy Ingle, office worker at the school, said she was devastated when she heard the school's gymnasium roof was blown off.

"I just cried. I just broke down," she said. "I couldn't believe our beautiful school was destroyed."

Gov. Joe Kernan surveyed the damage in a helicopter and said Marengo "just got clobbered."

"It is miraculous that it is not worse than it was in term of loss of life and serious injuries," he said.

John Laswell, 83, died when winds flipped over his mobile home, said his granddaughter Yvonne Dalton, who spoke with Kernan during his visit.

The Marengo tornado was just a couple dozen miles from where two other tornado touchdowns destroyed about 20 homes on Thursday.

Kernan has extended the disaster emergency he issued last week for the entire state and said he expected Federal Emergency Management Agency officials to arrive Tuesday to begin reviewing whether areas would be eligible for disaster aid.

Storms also tore the roof off a nursing home with about 50 residents inside on the south side of Indianapolis, but no serious injuries were reported. That tornado hit the city just a few miles from the path of a September 2002 tornado that caused extensive damage.

"There were several buildings completely flattened in the 2002 tornado," Mayor Bart Peterson said. "In this case, there are buildings flattened, but not large buildings."

He said a couple dozen buildings and homes were damaged.

The American Red Cross said 291 homes sustained some sort of structural damage in Marion County. A statewide figure was not immediately available.

A tornado that destroyed two homes near Dayton, about five miles southeast of Lafayette, had winds of about 150 mph, the weather service said.

A possible tornado also was reported near Peru, about midway between Indianapolis and South Bend, and high winds also caused damage in Valparaiso and Newton County in northwestern Indiana.

John Pennington, 18, and his girlfriend this weekend had moved into a mobile home in Marengo. They were not there when the tornado ripped off the back side of the home.

"I think I am going to move back home," Pennington said. "I don't think I need to be moving out again soon."

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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