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At least 8 tornadoes hit Indiana on Memorial Day

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Three people were injured as at least eight tornadoes hit central Indiana on Monday, the National Weather Service said.

The largest tornado, classified an EF-3 with winds reaching up to 150 mph, traveled 14 miles across Blackford and Wells counties. Two people received significant injuries at a farm, the weather service said Wednesday.

A weather service survey team on Wednesday also noted an eighth tornado hit Wabash County.

Three other tornadoes classified as EF-2, with winds from 111 to 135 mph, hit Pendleton in Madison County, the rural communities of Jalapa and Sweetser in Grant County and the rural communities of Macy and Silver Lake in Miami and Fulton counties. One person received minor injuries in the Pendleton tornado.

RELATED: Severe thunderstorm watch issued Tuesday for several counties

PHOTOS: Storm damage across Indiana on May 27, 2019

Here are outlines on the tornadoes by location:

PENDLETON-HUNTSVILLE: Two survey teams surveyed the Pendleton tornado on Tuesday. Winds topped 130 mph.

They determined the tornado began as an EF-1, with winds from 86 to 110 mph, west of Pendleton and moved through the north side of the town toward the community of Huntsville. Damage in that area included trees blown down and minor roof damage. Most damage occurred from trees falling into buildings. Ground saturated from recent rains caused many trees to fall. 

The Pendletown-Huntsville tornado became an EF-2 northeast of Huntsville, where three homes suffered extensive damage, including the loss of roofs on two of the homes. The third home had an exterior brick wall collapse inward.

From Huntsville, the tornado continued northeast, crossed Interstate 69 and lifted near 57th and Main streets in Anderson. 

Pendleton’s residents were urged to stay in their homes Tuesday morning because of downed trees, wires and utility poles, said Madison County Emergency Management spokesman Todd Harmeson.

BLACKFORD AND WELLS COUNTIES: The storm that produced a tornado in Grant County underwent several mergers with other storm cells and produced an EF-1 tornado that moved from north of the community of Roll to Montpelier and Nottingham, Indiana. A further survey on Wednesday found damage consistent with winds up to 150 mph. The tornado formed shortly before 9 p.m.

In addition to downed power lines and road closures due to debris, the storm also resulted in two significant injures at a dairy farm that was damaged. 

MIAMI AND FULTON COUNTIES: An EF-2 twister destroyed two houses and extensively damaged a hog confinement facility. It also destroyed other farm buildings, a machine shed and two high-voltage transmission towers, and tossed a pickup truck. A satellite tornado tossed a grain silo into a tree line about a quarter-mile away. No injuries were reported.

That tornado dropped about 7:51 p.m. about a mile north of Macy in Miami County. The tornado traveled 14 miles, with winds topping 135 mph, and ended its destruction about 3.5 miles south-southeast of Silver Lake.

GRANT COUNTY: The Grant County tornado traveled 4.2 miles and destroyed a garage, two barns and a silo. Winds topped from 120-125 mph. No injuries were reported. 

The tornado started near the intersection of county roads 900 W and 600 N, where it destroyed a well built barn. The tornado destroyed a detached car garage and lofted debris from a well-built hay barn several hundred yards away. As it tracked to the southeast, it destroyed a silo and a well-built barn next to the silo. The tornado briefly lifted before touching down once again at the intersection of county roads 500 W and 505 N, where it snapped trees and caused shingle and siding damage to a home. The tornado then lifted for the final time. 

HENRY COUNTY: Two EF-1 tornados with winds topping 110 mph hit the county. The first dropped at 8:28 p.m. about 2 miles south of Middletown in Henry County and traveled 2 miles. Numerous branches were downed, and large tree trucks were snapped. The second dropped at 8:39 p.m. about 4 miles east-southeast of Middletown and traveled nearly 3 miles. That second tornado damaged a couple of homes, threw metal siding across fields and snapped numerous large trees. No injuries were reported.

WABASH COUNTY: An EF-1 tornado with winds up to 90 mph damaged trees, a barn and a small shed. The twister also slightly turned a recreational vehicle. The tornado dropped about 9:26 p.m. about 2 miles northwest of North Manchester and traveled 2 miles before it lifted a mile west-southwest of Liberty Mills. 

DYER: In this town of 16,000 in northwest Indiana, an EF-0 tornado briefly touched down in a subdivision and caused minor damage to several homes and a backyard shed. The tornado dropped at 4:30 p.m. about a mile south-southwest of Dyer and traveled a mile, and its winds topped 85 mph. 

National outbreak

The outbreak of 53 Memorial Day tornadoes went across eight states stretching eastward from Idaho and Colorado. Some of the heaviest damage was reported just outside Dayton, Ohio.

In Celina, Ohio, 81-year-old Melvin Dale Hannah was killed when winds blew a parked car into his house, Mayor Jeffrey Hazel said Tuesday. About 130 were injured in Monday’s tornadoes.

On Tuesday, the U.S. set a new record of 12 consecutive days with at least eight tornadoes, based on preliminary data from the National Weather Service. The previous record for consecutive days with that many tornadoes was an 11-day stretch that ended on June 7, 1980.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Hamilton County’s ‘Wellness Unit’ part of nationwide effort to improve mental health among officers

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — An initiative to improve employee well-being at the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office is among a spate of efforts across the nation to address mental health concerns among officers.

Sheriff Dennis Quakenbush announced the department’s new “Wellness Unit”  — devoted to the physical, mental and spiritual health of its deputies, correctional officers and civilian employees — Friday in a Facebook post.

“Our guys really care about the public,” he said Monday in an interview with News 8. “When you see somebody who’s injured or victimized, it really impacts us… We’re only human.”

The Wellness Unit launched in January with funding approved by county council members and commissioners.

Appointments are held off-site at undisclosed locations to protect the privacy of employees. Supervisors are not briefed on which employees seek counseling or what they discuss during sessions.

Information gathered during counseling sessions will not be used to demote or discipline employees, and will only be disclosed if required by law, including when somebody poses an immediate danger to themselves or others.

The department’s entire staff will receive training related to suicide prevention, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, critical incidents, addiction, mindfulness and officer wellness, the sheriff said.

Nearly 1 in 4 police officers has thoughts of suicide at some point in their life, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI); the suicide rate for police officers is four times higher than the rate for firefighters.

Years of daily exposure to stress, trauma and tragedy can have other devastating consequences if appropriate coping skills are not developed, according to Susan Sherer-Vincent, a licensed clinical social worker, certified alcoholism counselor and licensed marriage and family therapist involved in launching the Wellness Unit.

“Think of the hurricanes that come in, in Florida, and think of the palm trees where they bend,” she explained. “But then, what happens afterwards? They go back up. That’s called resilience. We want our officers to bend, not break.”

Until approximately 3 to 5 years ago, officers were often conditioned to “pull [themselves] up by the bootstraps and go to the next call” instead of addressing personal struggles, Sherer-Vincent said.

Cultivating resiliency can be difficult within a law enforcement culture that equates mental health challenges with “weakness,” she said.

“[Officers] are trained to have the warrior mentality,” Sherer-Vincent told News 8. “Truly, they would have been made fun of [in the past for seeking counseling].”

She compared strong, silent officers with underdeveloped coping skills to California’s famed redwood trees.

“They’re pretty sturdy. But what would happen if you took an ax and hit those every single day, day after day, for years? They would eventually fall,” she said.

Quakenbush credits his wife, church and non-law enforcement friends with providing “a really good support system.”

“But sometimes, you need a professional,” he said, urging employees to “talk through” negative emotions instead of turning to alcohol and other substances for temporary relief.

Several internal cases that resulted in disciplinary action during his year-long tenure as sheriff may have been prevented with wellness-focused intervention, Quakenbush said.

He was unable to comment on personnel matters. 

Sources within the department indicated some of the cases involved employees with substance abuse issues that had escalated over time, possibly as a result of work-related stress that had gone unaddressed. 

“I wouldn’t say that [disciplinary action] was happening often,” Quakenbush told News 8. “But seeing it happen and knowing that we probably could have done something about it made it impactful and something that we wanted to make a priority.”

Hamilton County announced its Wellness Unit days after New York City police officials revealed plans to hire a team of psychologists to combat a spike in officer suicides.

On Feb. 13, Indianapolis police officials said they planned to swear in the department’s first full-time therapy dog by the end of March.

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