As soon as he heard that a tornado was headed down Duo Drive, Keith Walters jumped into his truck and headed over to check on his mother. All he found was a pile of rubble with her kitchen still standing, pots on the counter and food still arranged in the cabinet.
"My heart just went out," he recalls. But a neighbor had just seen his mother drive away a few minutes before. She was safe at her sister's house.
Friday proved that kind of day throughout Indiana. Though high winds and at least one tornado cut a wide swath of property damage through the center of the state and on into Ohio, they caused mostly minor injuries and no fatalities. The Indianapolis Star, which carried the story of a local mother and child swept up in a funnel cloud, ran the headline: "Miracle: No dead in storms."
The storms, which hit in the afternoon when children were still in school, proved to be the worst since 38 tornadoes swept through the state on a single day in June 1990. This year, however, the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., reports fewer tornados than usual. Just prior to Friday, there had been an estimated 572 tornado reports this year. By contrast, 1,213 tornadoes had been reported by this time of year In 2001.
Friday's winds left behind millions of dollars of damage and a huge cleanup for dozens of communities, including Indianapolis itself. Here in Martinsville, among the places worst hit by the storms, emergency personnel from across central Indiana gathered to direct traffic, clear debris, and cordon off sections of the city heavily damaged by the winds.
"All the emergency vehicles that came from all over to help I can't get over it," says Evelyn McKinney, who lost some shingles from her roof and a beautiful pear tree on her front lawn.
Across the street, winds felled a large tree that managed to fall between two homes. Less than a block away, a nursing home was wrapping up the evacuation of its 102 residents after a portion of the building was destroyed. The company had to line up dozens of ambulances to shuttle patients to hospitals and other nursing homes in the region. No one was hurt.
Meanwhile, some residents worked late into the night, using their headlights to pick through debris and retrieve valuables. Mr. Walters' son managed to recover a few family photographs. But the wind shattered the furniture.
"It's all material," Walters says, grateful for his mother's narrow escape. "She said the Lord was looking over her because her sister called" to warn her to leave.
Perhaps the most dramatic survival story belongs to Kim Bernhardt and her son. Their van was picked up by a funnel cloud in Indianapolis, hurled at least three blocks, and then deposited upright. Neither mother nor son was harmed. "Can you believe I don't have a scratch?" she told the Indianapolis Star.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.