Community busy cleaning up one week after tornado

Severe weather raises questions, concerns about safety in southern Indiana
Updated: Jul. 27, 2018 at 6:15 PM EDT
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HARRISON COUNTY, IN (WAVE) - It's been one week since an EF-1 tornado carried 105 m.p.h. winds on a six-mile path, leaving destruction around parts of Harrison County.

Eerie images were captured on camera by concerned citizens as the twister ripped through the dark. The ominous clouds promised destruction in their wake. Once the sky cleared and storms lifted, some homes and trees saw heavy damage. Some were spared, other families lost everything, but are grateful to have their lives.

Friday afternoon was a very different day from the weather just one week ago.

>> IMAGES: Severe weather rocks WAVE Country

Taylor Johnson and his wife remembered the ride home from Louisville to New Middletown on the night of the storm. The drive was marked by state troopers and trees on roadways, a reminder of the damage covering the scenic, quiet country.

"But, to see people in their yards crying about what had happened to their house... you're excited that nothing happened to you but you're also heartbroken for them," Taylor Johnson said.

Johnson's home was spared but the tornado took down trees in the family yard. His neighbors down the road will have to replace roofs and buildings.

The Harrison County Highway Department crews stayed busy, clearing away downed trees and brush. Highway Superintendent Glen Bube said the cleanup will take crews half a month to complete as they work to clean roads and clear away tree limbs.

"We've still got a lot of trees up in the air, hanging down," Highway Department Second District Foreman Allen Hitner said. "We're just making it safe for anybody driving down the road, don't want them to fall on them. We're trying to get all that cleaned up."

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During the storm, two sirens in New Middletown and Elizabeth were not working. They were waiting to be repaired, according to Greg Reas, the Harrison County Emergency Manager.

The community and county council have questions about when the need for repairs were identified.

"If you did know they weren't working, then why wasn't that coming to the county council to fund? Because I'm sure the county council would have funded those," Gary Byrne of the Harrison County Council said.

An emergency alert system, Everbridge, was notifying residents of threats via phone. The system was canceled weeks earlier by the county council after some members questioned its effectiveness. County paperwork shows more than 11,000 residents were registered, but records show alerts were being sent out to just 1,000 -- or even a few hundred residents -- in some cases of inclement weather.

"That's concerning to me," Byrne said. "And I believe the council was proper in having a very good reason for defunding a system they didn't believe was doing what most people thought it should be."

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County leaders are now moving forward to fix those sirens and possibly bring back an alert system.

Byrne said he'll support an alert system, or bringing back Everbridge if they can find a way to make the alerts work for people in the county and better explain how they can join the system.

Residents in the area socked by storms just seven days ago are hopeful that tornadoes will skip over them in the future.

"I'm content with my house being that close to a tornado," Johnson said. "I don't want to see it come close ever again."

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