KOKOMO, Ind. – Officials from Howard County discussed tornado damage and response efforts Thursday morning as residents pick up from dangerous storms from Wednesday.
According to Sheriff Steven Rogers, 10 to 15 injuries were reported. There were no fatalities or serious injuries, Rogers said.
“So we are very blessed to tell you that we don’t have any serious injuries or casualties from the storm,” Rogers said.
The sheriff said Kokomo police officers and Howard County sheriff’s deputies patrolled overnight to make sure the hardest-hit areas were secure.
Mayor Greg Goodnight said he appreciated the assistance of police. He revealed that 220 people were staying in an emergency shelter set up in the wake of Wednesday’s tornado outbreak. Goodnight said he heard from Gov. Mike Pence and Sen. Joe Donnelly “almost immediately” after the storms hit.
“We have a lot of trees down, a lot of power lines down,” Goodnight said. “We’ve had outreach from other cities.”
Goodnight said a number of mayors offered help and believed he would take them up on their offers of support and supplies.
“We’re all very grateful that there were no fatalities or serious injuries,” he said. “Kudos to everyone in the media doing a great job reporting on that, on social media, people for taking the threats seriously.”
Tornadoes also caused damage in Howard County in 2013, Goodnight noted.
“A lot of the same areas were hit, not exactly, it was just slightly north of the tornado that came through in November of 2013. Our hearts are with those people who have experienced this twice.”
Goodnight said the biggest challenge was getting the word out to people to stay inside unless they absolutely needed to get out. He’s concerned curious onlookers could impede efforts to clean up and assess storm damage.
“We’re not prohibiting people from going and looking at their own individual homes,” Goodnight said. “As far as going back and actually going back and making a full effort to clean up, it will depend on power being restored.”
Goodnight and Rogers both said they were concerned about possible scammers looking to prey upon those hit by the storms.
“Be very cautious. There’s a lot of great people out there, but we also know there’s the potential for people to take advantage of the situation.”
There were zero reports of vandalism; Goodnight said he was “very proud” of Kokomo residents.
Sgt. Tony Slocum from Indiana State Police said 27 state troopers were on the ground to help in the Kokomo area.
“They’re here to augment the resources provided here by the city of Kokomo and the Howard County Sheriff’s Department,” Slocum said.
“One thing I would like to emphasize to homeowners that are returning to their properties is please be prepared to show identification as you go back to your communities,” Slocum said. “The officers protecting those communities aren’t necessarily aware of who belongs there, so they’ll going to check IDs to verify that you’re in the right place and that you indeed have business in these communities.”
Slocum said the security measure was intended to protect communities and homes. He added that several traffic lights in the area are still out and urged drivers to use extra caution when traveling in the area.