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Remnants of Ike wreak havoc throughout region

September 17, 2008
Hurricanes can do significant damage to Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas and other coastal areas. But who would have thought there could be hurricane-related damage in Southern Indiana?

Although Hurricane Ike hit the Texas coast as only a Category 2 hurricane with winds approaching 110 mph, the storm had hurricane-force winds extending 275 miles from its center. As the storm blew northward, it was enhanced by another nearby storm system, causing a major wind event that took place across the middle and lower Ohio Valley on Sunday. The storm dropped significant rainfall to the north, causing some flooding in Chicago and northern Indiana. But the eastern and southern part of the storm brought hurricane-force winds across Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio, causing extensive damage, including structural damage to buildings, trees and electric lines and caused the death of six people in the state.

A state of emergency was declared in Louisville due to the wind damage, and the airport was closed for several hours Sunday afternoon. Officials stated that it was the worst power outage in the city in more than 30 years. Cincinnati was also hit by the winds, and the airport there was closed temporarily and the control tower was evacuated. Schools were closed throughout the area on Monday.

In Crawford County, the intensity of the winds caught most people by surprise. Dispatchers at E-911 handled more than 110 calls on Sunday afternoon, many concerning trees falling on buildings and across roads, and there were several calls from people on oxygen who had lost power. Damage was extensive across the entire county. Winds were clocked at between 60 and 75 mph.

"It's bad all over," Crawford County Sheriff Tim Wilkerson said in an interview on Monday afternoon. "Some places looked like a tornado had gone through the area. We had one fatality in Milltown.

"Jasper Engine lost part of their roof, as did the Overlook Restaurant. The county crew was out yesterday and worked until dark, then came back in early this morning and started again. All the schools and most businesses are closed.

"We've just had a meeting with the county commissioners and they've decided to declare a local emergency for Crawford County. That doesn't mean that traffic is restricted, but we would like to have as little traffic on the roads as possible. There's still a lot of electric lines down and some of the roads are still blocked by them. We're running on a generator here at the judicial complex, but most areas still don't have electricity and no one knows when it will be restored," Wilkerson continued.

"Dave Cox set up his fish booth between the courthouse and the firehouse here and has free fish dinners to emergency workers and any member of the public who needs a meal. Everything is free, but he asked for donations from those who can help.

"There's people out trying to find generators and oxygen bottles for those people who are on oxygen and are about to run out. The storm has taken a toll."

On Monday morning, electricity was restored to a small area in the western part of the county, but as soon as it came on, it ignited a fire in the Ponder Boat Sales and Service building on S.R. 64.

"The building was a total loss," English assistant fire chief Mike Benham said. "An ambulance got there before we did and said flames were already shooting up through the roof of the building. I haven't had time to do the paperwork on it yet, but I'd say there will be $400,000 to $500,000 in damages."

Although most of the county is without electricity, water is still available to most areas.

"We have issued an advisory to conserve water," Pam Herbaugh of the Crawford County Water Company said. "We're OK right now, but we get our water from Leavenworth, and they are without power, so eventually we will run out if they can't get more water to us. So, we'd like everyone to conserve as much as possible."

The story was much the same in Harrison County. Trees and power lines were down all over the county and many homes and other structures suffered roof damage. Power was restored to many parts of Corydon by Monday morning, but many other areas in the county remained without power and it is not known when it will return.

"Pretty much the entire county was effected," Harrison County Emergency Agency Director Greg Reas said. "We were kind of blind-sided by the wind. One minute there was a wind advisory and the next we were under a wind warning. I think it pretty much caught everyone by surprise. From east to west up to about Bloomington, we just got hammered in the state. Harrison County is under a state of emergency. We are asking people to stay off the roads or use extreme caution while traveling, and to use extreme caution when approaching a downed tree or a power line.

"Now is as good of a time as any to be neighborly. If you have a neighbor — on an elderly neighbor, especially — it'd be a great time to introduce yourself, or go door to door to see if people need help. If you have power and your neighbor doesn't, take them some water or invite them over for dinner. It's a good time for the community to pull together like they always seem to do in something like this."

Dave Lopp, manager at Ramsey Water Company, urged customers to do their part in conserving water. On Monday, the company was attempting to acquire two generators from the National Guard to assist in moving water to and from its pumping and booster stations, which serve about a third of the county's water needs. How long the water lasts is dependent on when power can be restored, Lopp said.

(Information for this article was also gathered by Alan Stewart.)

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