NEWBURGH, Ind. (AP) - The National Weather Service confirms it was a tornado that swept across an Ohio River town early Wednesday, damaging several homes in Newburgh's historic riverside district as a powerful line of thunderstorms cut across the Midwest.
Warrick County Chief Deputy Sheriff Marvin Heilman said no injuries were reported after the storm hit Newburgh, about 15 miles east of Evansville, around 6 a.m.
Heilman said straight-line winds or possibly a tornado damaged the homes, some of which were hit by falling trees.
The weather service says in a preliminary damage assessment that the 100-yard-wide tornado had peak winds of 90 mph when it slammed into the Ohio River town just after 6 a.m. CST Wednesday and traveled two miles on the ground, leveling a garage, damaging the roofs of about 20 homes and two businesses and uprooting dozens of trees. The storm was rated EF-1 on the Fujita scale.
A powerful system of storms carrying a string of possible tornadoes crashed through a broad swath of the country's midsection early Wednesday, leaving at least nine people dead.
National Weather Service meteorologist Beverly Poole said Newburgh was the hardest-hit area in Indiana, but her crew was also surveying sites in Posey, Henderson, Vanderburgh, Warrick and Spencer counties.
"This is just the worst setup, to have an after-midnight tornado, after people have gone to bed," she said. "This early in the season, they're killer tornadoes."
Poole said a tornado warning was issued for the Newburgh area well before the storm came through.
The weather service wants to survey the damage quickly because it is already tracking another line of storms set to follow a similar path Friday, Poole said.
Carol Schaefer, executive director of Historic Newburgh Inc., said she heard tornado sirens about 5:30 a.m. in Warrick County's oldest community. She said she visited the downtown area Wednesday and saw damaged homes. The roof of a popular restaurant, the Edgewater Grille, had collapsed.
Schaefer said insurance crews were already assessing the damage.
"A lot of people are out picking up debris and helping their neighbors," Schaefer said.
She said many of the damaged buildings will likely take weeks to repair.
"We're very lucky to have not received more damage than we did, considering the storm was headed right toward us," she said.
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