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Officials investigating tornado siren delay in Bartholomew County as residents clean up storm damage

BARTHOLOMEW COUNTY, Ind.-- The National Weather Service believes strong straight-line winds are to blame for the heaviest damage from storms in eastern Bartholomew County.

Damage patterns all go in one direction, and the storm left behind a wide three-mile path of damage.

"We see a fairly broad path, as much as three miles wide, in which we have sporadic damage here and there," said Dave Tucek from the National Weather Service. "And so given such a broad path, sporadic damage within that path, and everything in the same direction, it’s all indicative of a straight-line wind event.”

Heather Baker says she and her family hid in their cellar when tornado warnings were issued Friday night.  When they emerged after the storm, they found both of their barns destroyed.

“Well, we thought it was a tornado because some of the big posts that were from the barn were sucked out of the ground, there were big holes left in the ground," Baker said.

Hail damage on the front of Baker's home looks more like bullet holes.  Baker says it sounded like her house was being strafed by a machine gun during the storm.

"Any time you have winds over 80 miles per hour, and what looks like quarter-inch sized hail, I've seen it punch right through the siding of a home," Tucek said.

Rotation was reported in the area during the storm, but officials don't believe it ever became a funnel cloud.

Tucek said even though there wasn't a tornado, the wind was strong enough to rival one.  He estimates wind speeds between 90 and 100 miles per hour.

"This would be the equivalent of an EF-1 tornado damage had it been tornado, but again straight line wind in character here," Tucek said.

The county's Emergency Management Agency (EMA) confirmed there was a 13-minute delay from when the tornado warning was issued to the outdoor sirens going off. This could have delayed some residents knowing about the impending weather.

An investigation is underway into what caused the delay. It could have been a technical glitch or even human error as a person must activate the outdoor sirens.

All the electronic warnings through the county's Everbridge system did go out immediately to all landline phones, emails, weather radios and mobile phones for those who signed up.