Family scrambles for cover as storm destroys home in Jay County

JAY COUNTY, Ind. – People in Jay and Blackford counties are cleaning up Monday after storm storms swept through the area Sunday.

Jay County Schools and Blackford County Schools are canceled for the day. The Jay County Courthouse is closed, but the Jay County Sheriff's Office said it will reopen at noon "if the power is restored."

The damage included a single-family home west of Portland. The storm blew the home across the street—its steel frame was lying in a nearby field. There was nothing left to salvage.

The Walter family told FOX59 that they received tornado warnings on their phones throughout the day. Mostly, they remembered seeing spurts of rainfall.

At one point, a teenage family member and her boyfriend watched the tornado bear down on their home on North County Road 500 West off State Road 26. They were able to get to cover before it hit.

“We laid down in the ditch, and he got on top of it and covered my eyes and wouldn’t let me watching anything,” said storm survivor Emily Walter. “Right as we got up, I saw it going past about a mile east.”

Emily Walter’s boyfriend spotted the funnel cloud first near a hog barn on the property. Walter’s mother said the pair was forced to run from the house, leaving the dogs inside, and take cover.

Monday morning, the family’s beloved dog, Jeb, was spotted in a field next to where their house once stood. After two hours of searching, Jeb was located banged up and swollen from roughing through the storm.

“It’s all demolished. It’s completely gone,” said Alan Walter.

Walter and his wife and several of their children were going out in Muncie and were not home when the reported tornado tore through their home.

Stacie Walter said she received a frantic phone call from Emily saying their entire house was gone.

“Shocked, you’re at a loss,” Walter explained, “I lost everything but I didn’t. I have my husband and my kids, so I didn’t really lose anything. It’s just stuff, it’s just stuff and it’s all replaceable.”

Neighbors and people from the community helped provide trailers to salvage what items could be saved from the debris. While others returned Monday morning with trucks to lug away what could not be saved, and burn what wood was left behind.

Other parts of Jay and Blackford counties saw extensive damage, with chainlink fences and roofs tossed around farm fields and roads.

Crews from Jay County Emergency Management said they planned to reassess the damage Monday morning, but explained that the majority of the county roads were back open.

The National Weather Service will send a team to assess the storm’s path.