IN sees 90-mile damage swath

BY SUSAN KIM | MARTINSVILLE, IN | September 23, 2002



"In any given space, about 10 or 20 homes were destroyed or damaged."

—Tom Davis


A 300-foot-wide tornado that stayed on the ground for two hours cut a 90-mile swath through Indiana Friday. Now residents are cleaning up and coping.

Representatives from faith-based and voluntary organizations were forming a long-term recovery network, said Mary Anna Speller of the United Church of Christ national disaster ministries network.

While residents of some affected communities had adequate insurance, others live in more vulnerable areas, she pointed out.

"There is a trailer park on the east side of Marion County. It's fairly large and fairly old. Ninety percent of the homes there were damaged in some way."

One of the damaged apartment buildings housed low-income families, she added, and a local United Church of Christ church was planning to reach out to affected residents.

Responding to people's long-term needs will be a challenge, pointed out Tom Davis, a Church World Service disaster response and recovery liaison, because so many places were damaged.

"In any given space, about 10 or 20 homes were destroyed or damaged."

While damage to the Indianapolis area has received national media attention, damage to rural areas stretching across the state has gone unnoticed, he added.

The wreckage runs from Indiana's southwest corner to its northeast tip. In addition to the damage caused by the 300-foot-wide twister, three other tornadoes touched down as part of the same storm system.

Some 73 homes were destroyed, and 109 had major damage, according to Indiana state emergency management. Eight apartment buildings sustained major damage.

Another 170 homes had minor damage.

Thirteen businesses were destroyed, and 46 had major damage.

Hardest hit were Marion, Monroe and Morgan counties.

Teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency were assessing damages Monday, with a request from state emergency management officials to expedite a federal disaster declaration if at all possible. "We're very hopeful for a federal declaration," said Alden Taylor, public information officer for Indiana emergency management.

Assessments will likely take longer than usual, Taylor added, since the largest tornado took a diagonal track, and state highways run horizontally and vertically. "You go around a corner trying to follow the storm damage, and it disappears," he said.

With no deaths and only minor injuries, personal stories of survival were coming out Monday as people continued to clean up.

One woman and her 4-year-old child were in their vehicle, which was picked up and thrown several blocks. They emerged unscathed.

Many residents Monday were finding objects from 20 miles away in their yards and driveways.

Several schools were also affected and were shut down Monday, said Speller.

The Salvation Army and American Red Cross were helping meet people's emergency needs.


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