JOHNSON COUNTY, Ind. — Despite forecasts that called for stormy weather Saturday afternoon, many who were caught in the storm’s path said they were surprised by the speed and severity of it.
“The wind started picking up a little bit, and then boom it sounded like a train coming through,” said Edinburgh resident Rebecca Roberts. “Everybody’s screaming, ‘Should we take cover? Should we take cover?’ and all that kind of stuff because we didn’t hear any sirens.”
Not far from Roberts’ home, the National Weather Service confirmed an EF-0 tornado touched down and severely damaged the post chapel at Camp Atterbury. The tornado was only on the ground for a minute or less before 80-90 mile per hour straight-line winds continued on an eastbound path along State Road 252 into Edinburgh. Before long, roughly 90% of Edinburgh was without power as trees and branches came crashing down in neighborhoods, and the newly-installed scoreboard at Edinburgh High School had been destroyed.
“No idea, no alarms went off, anything,” said Edinburgh Town Manager Dan Cartwright. “There was absolutely nothing, except for just weather forecasts”
In nearby Nineveh, firefighters had to rescue a 13-year-old girl who became trapped by a large tree that had fallen on her home.
“She had bumps and bruises, she was complaining of a headache, she had a cut on her head, bump on her elbow,” said Steven Stahl, a Nineveh Township firefighter. “We had no warning at all. It was completely sunny out 10 minutes before.”
Johnson County Emergency Management Agency Director Stephanie Sichting said the severe weather moved in and out so fast that the agency never received notification from the National Weather Service to activate tornado sirens. While a severe thunderstorm watch was issued for Johnson County shortly before 2 p.m., a tornado warning was not issued until the storm had already moved into Shelby County, she said.
While tornado sirens have long been used to warn about incoming severe weather, public safety officials said it’s best for Hoosiers to rely on more modern tools in order to stay weather aware. Cartwright pointed out that storm sirens are primarily designed to warn individuals who are outdoors, and they are not always the most efficient way to be weather aware.
“When something this quick happens, there’s no way,” he said. “I mean, you’ve got to be prepared.”
Public safety officials said it’s best for Hoosiers to make use of tools like the Weather Authority smart phone app, which is available in the Apple and Google Play stores. The app provides access to live radar, conditions and current watches and warnings. Safety officials also encourage individuals to invest in a NOAA Weather Radio, which can provide 24-hour coverage of severe weather information. Weather radios can generally be found anywhere electronics are sold. Information about finding and programming a weather radio can be found on the National Weather Service website.