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Governor Pence tours tornado damage, speaks with residents in Kokomo

KOKOMO, Ind. -- Gov. Mike Pence spent Thursday looking at the devastation in Howard County after a tornado outbreak hit the area Wednesday afternoon and evening.

He praised the efforts of first responders in Kokomo as well as Mayor Greg Goodnight.

“I mostly want to express my appreciation to Mayor Goodnight and the outstanding team of first responders in the city of Kokomo. The state of Indiana is playing a supporting role, but the efforts here to give proper warning to this community, to be there for the families once this very serious storm and tornado moved through this area, is a great credit to a city that knows how to deal with difficulty.”

Pence visited with homeowners to see the devastation and got a look at the Starbucks store destroyed during the storm. He met with storm victims at a shelter set up to help those affected by the storms.

“It’s very moving to me to talk to these families, family members who were in their homes and see these homes destroyed, but because of peoples’ quick thinking and a good early warning system locally, no serious injury, no loss of life. It’s a miracle. It’s a testament to good common sense by Hoosiers.”

Pence said the storm came up fast and that in his lifetime he “usually got a lot more warning” during past bouts of severe weather.

Goodnight reiterated comments he made earlier that other mayors from around the state have offered to help in any way possible. He thanked teachers and bus drivers from Kokomo schools for staying late with students Wednesday because of the storms. Some stayed as late as 9 p.m., he said.

Sen. Joe Donnelly called Kokomo “one of the most resilient and tough towns you’ll ever find.” He recalled previous tornadoes in the area and noted how residents were ready to rebuild.

“It’s a real testament to Hoosier character, to American character, and what we want to do is to tell all the families out there to contact us. We’ll do everything we can to help, whether it’s with insurance or whether it is to see if there’s enough [damage] there for FEMA [help],” Donnelly said. “We’re all in this together.”

Pence said the state was past the response phase and had moved into the recovery phase. He said families will need help in the weeks and months to come, long after many Hoosiers have moved on to other things.

The governor was due to visit Crawfordsville in the afternoon.