La PORTE – Ominous clouds, high winds, thunder and lightning, rain and hail – Memorial Day ended with a wild ride across northwest Indiana, with at least one confirmed tornado in Lake County, and multiple sitings of funnel-shaped clouds across the area.
The National Weather Service in Chicago said a tornado touched down near the Dyer-Sauk VIllage area, right on the border between Illinois and Indiana on Monday afternoon, and is checking reports of other possible touchdowns across north central Indiana.
The Weather Service said trained spotters reported a touchdown about 4:30 p.m. near Dyer, Indiana. There were no reports of injury and no major property damage, though trees and limbs were brought down across the area.
Severe storms brought winds gusting up to 70 mph and large hail to the area late Monday afternoon. The Weather Service reported up to 2-inch hail in areas including Aurora, Joliet and Oswego, Illinois. Many areas also experienced flash flooding, including La Porte, where some streets were nearly impassable.
Reports of hail as large as tennis balls came from Colorado, while ping pong-ball sized hail was reported in Illinois. The largest hail reported in the area was 1-inch diameter in La Porte and 1.5 inches in Valparaiso, according to the Weather Service, which also reported hail up to 4 inches in diameter in Tippecanoe County.
There were unconfirmed sitings of tornado-like clouds near Porter Regional Hospital in Valparaiso, near Westville and La Porte, and just south of Kingsbury in the La Porte County area.
The Weather Service said none of those reports were confirmed as tornadoes as of Tuesday afternoon, but survey teams were looking at damage in the Macy/Akron area and Somerset/LaFontaine area in north central Indiana. Several reports of tornadoes were received in Grant, Miami, Wabash and Fulton counties.
Kingsbury-area residents reported quarter-sized hail, huge amounts of water running across their property, and an uprooted tree rupturing an underground gas main leading to a house, forcing evacuation.
La Porte County Emergency Management DIrector Larry Butcher said there were reports of “a few small trees down, but no tornado touchdown was reported” in the county.
Rainfall totals across the area ranged from half an inch to over 2 inches. Additional thunderstorms were possible Tuesday afternoon and evening that were expected to hamper those surveys.
NIPSCO reported several hundred power outages across western Lake County near the Dyer-Schererville area, but no major outages were reported in the La Porte County area.
The line of storms that moved across the area was caused by a warm front across northern Indiana, combined with an unstable atmosphere and high amounts of shear, which combined to produce multiple supercell thunderstorms, according to the Weather Service.
As the storms crossed into Ohio, they intensified, leaving homes smashed, windows blown out, one person killed and dozens were injured.
Overall, the Weather Service was tracking reports of 53 twisters that may have touched down across eight states. The winds knocked homes off foundations, toppled trees and hurled so much debris that it could be seen on radar, and highway crews had to use snowplows to clear an Ohio interstate.
Some of the heaviest damage was reported just outside Dayton, Ohio; and in Celina, Ohio, 81-year-old Melvin Dale Hannah was killed when winds blew a parked car into his house.
Storm reports posted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center showed 14 suspected tornadoes touched down in Indiana, 11 in Colorado and nine in Ohio. Six suspected tornadoes were reported in Iowa, five in Nebraska, four in Illinois, three in Minnesota and one in Idaho.
A large tornado struck near Trotwood, Ohio, eight miles from Dayton, and Mayor Mary McDonald reported “catastrophic damage” in the community of 24,500. Five busloads of displaced residents were taken to a church that opened as a shelter.
In Brookville, west of Dayton, the storm peeled roofs off schools, destroyed a barn and heavily damaged houses.
In Indiana, a twister touched down Monday evening in Pendleton, and at least 75 homes were damaged there and in nearby Huntsville, according to Madison County Emergency Management spokesman Todd Harmeson.
Additional showers and thunderstorms were expected to overspread the area from the west into early Wednesday, and there is a marginal risk of severe storms on Wednesday as thunderstorms redevelop in the afternoon. Damaging wind and large hail will be the main threat. The chance of storms will continue on Thursday, but severe weather is not expected, according to the Weather Service.