At least 12 tornadoes strike Indiana, Ohio; no serious injuries

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A wave of severe storms produced at least a dozen tornadoes in Indiana and Ohio, damaging homes and businesses but causing no serious injuries, authorities said Thursday, as crews worked to restore power and remove fallen trees.

The National Weather Service said an EF3 tornado hit the south side of Kokomo, Indiana, packing winds of up to 165 mph. That tornado toppled a Starbucks coffee shop and damaged numerous homes and businesses in the city about 40 miles north of Indianapolis. But Howard County Sheriff Steve Rogers said the 10 to 15 Kokomo residents who were hurt suffered only minor injuries.

Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight said Thursday that about 220 people stayed overnight in a temporary shelter. Police were restricting access to storm-damaged neighborhoods, saying residents must show identification to gain access.

“The areas that have been hit the hardest, we’re asking people to stay away unless they absolutely have to be in those areas,” Goodnight said at a news conference, adding that he’s relieved no one was killed or seriously injured.

Tornadoes were also spotted across the border in northwest Ohio. Emergency Management Agency spokesman Jay Carey said damage was reported in Defiance, Henry, Paulding and Van Wert counties and that one person was reportedly hurt. The worst damage appeared to be at a mobile home park in Defiance, and roads around the site were blocked late Wednesday.

Weather service crews were still assessing the scope of the storms in Indiana, but a spokesman for the state Department of Homeland Security, John Erickson, said at least 12 tornadoes were confirmed in eight northern and central counties.

Several struck central Indiana’s Howard County, where utility companies reported at least 15,000 homes and businesses remained without electricity Thursday morning. Goodnight said utility crews from elsewhere in the state were traveling to the city to help restore power and clean up storm debris.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, the Republican vice presidential candidate, returned home Wednesday evening after campaigning in North Carolina. He was scheduled to tour Howard and Montgomery counties and possibly other areas Thursday to assess the damage.

At the Park Place Apartments in Kokomo, maintenance technician Mitchell Carlson described the post-storm scene as “a madhouse.” He said the complex has 16 buildings and “probably eight of them don’t have a roof.” Falling tree limbs and air conditioners damaged 20 to 30 cars, he said.

Howard County Commissioner Paul Wyman said the area was also slammed by a tornado in 2013 and “will bounce back once again.” That tornado injured nearly three dozen people.

Associated Press writer Rick Callahan and Tom Davies contributed to this report.

By Ken Kusmer

Associated Press