INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A tornado-producing storm that hit central Indiana on Tuesday damaged several homes in Indianapolis and its outskirts, downed power lines and uprooted trees, authorities said.
It was one of several thunderstorms that sprang up in southwestern Indiana near Terre Haute and moved northeast toward Indianapolis, becoming more severe along the way. No injuries were reported. National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Ryan said the tornado struck in the afternoon in Hendricks County just southwest of Indianapolis and caused extensive damage to at least three homes.
The twister, an EF1 on the 0-to-5 enhanced Fujita scale with an estimated wind speed of 100 mph, tossed a camper onto the roof of a home and destroyed the camper and about half of the roof, according to a storm survey team's report. Strong winds from the storm also damaged more than 200 cars at an auto auction site, the weather service said.
The storm hit as 20 people were receiving chimney sweeping training in Plainfield, about 15 miles southwest of Indianapolis. Tom Spalding, a spokesman for the Chimney Safety Institute of America, said weather alerts were sent to the trainees' cellphones and what looked like a funnel cloud appeared in the distance.
"I didn't realize what I was looking at, frankly," said Spalding, who used his phone to snap a photo of the dark cloud. "I saw a big, grayish, ugly blob — very violent-looking, very dark — move across the sky."
The winds and heavy rain headed into Indianapolis, damaging houses on the city's west side and uprooting several trees, including some that fell on cars.
Three to four homes received roof damage and several others had siding taken off or windows knocked out, Wayne Township Fire Capt. Mike Pruitt said.
"We were fortunate that a lot of people had gone to work and the people that were home had received extensive warnings," Pruitt said, referring to the lack of injuries.
The city of Indianapolis opened an operations center to organize its response to the storm, Homeland Security Director Gary Coons said.
"Something hit here. Whether it was straight-line winds or a tornado, something with a lot of wind hit here," Coons told WRTV. "We're just trying to assess and see how much damage there is."
Indianapolis Power and Light Co. reported more than 1,700 customers without service after the storm struck in a second straight day of storm-related outages in the city. Duke Energy reported nearly 800 customers without power in Greenwood, a southern suburb.
Heavy rain accompanying the storms prompted the weather service to issue flash flood warnings for much of central Indiana.
In Cloverdale, about 40 miles southwest of Indianapolis, 2 to 4 inches of water flowed across state Route 42, the weather service said.
Associated Press journalists Charles D. Wilson and Mike Conroy in Indianapolis and Tom Coyne in South Bend contributed to this report.