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Tippecanoe Co. residents try to clean up after likely tornado

TIPPECANOE CO., Ind. (WLFI) – Damage in Tippecanoe County Friday was primarily in the southern part of the county on both sides of U.S. 52. In just a few hours of remaining daylight, in between and in the middle of the storm cells, residents like the Wickes were trying to clean up.

The Wickes home was inaccessible Friday evening after storms blew through. Several trees uprooted or snapped in half by the wind, falling right on their driveway.

“All of a sudden, it got still and my husband said, ‘Go downstairs,’” said Jodi Wickes.

Plywood covers a window hole over the couch where Jodi was sitting minutes earlier. Her backyard was decimated, but incredibly her house survived.

“We just feel crazy blessed that we’re safe and that our house is basically intact,” said Wickes.

Family friends, many from church, were hard at work, sawing limbs, carrying them to a pile, then sweeping and raking up the remaining sticks.

“Amazing,” said Wickes. “We’re just so thankful.”

Rain falls down right on the window in the Wickes’ front yard, part of siding pulled straight off a neighbor’s home.

Next door, there’s a lot more damage to property next door on Cobbler Lane where a free-standing garage was destroyed by the storm. Everyone was fine, but there’s more roof damage to the home.

“It was a very fast developing, fast moving storm that popped up late afternoon,” said Tippecanoe County Emergency Management Director Smokey Anderson.

So fast, the tornado warning came from the National Weather Service just four minutes after the severe thunderstorm warning.

Trees on Cobbler Lane were uprooted and set down in assorted directions, signs of a tornado’s path. But Anderson says the National Weather Service will be on scene Saturday morning to take a closer look.

“They will help us determine if it was rotating,” said Anderson. “I feel very strongly that it was but we’ll let them make that determination.”

The path continues to the Stetler home on U.S. 52. They pulled into the garage in the nick of time.

“I told my wife to hurry up and get in the basement and by the time we got down there, things already happening,” said Gary Stetler.

Shingles were pulled off the roof and thrown down in a pile next to the highway. Large trees pulled right out of the ground, roots and all. The basement door which was locked with a deadbolt was blown right open.

“Scary,” said Stetler. “You just don’t think something can happen that quick.”

But now that it’s over, just like the Wickes, there’s a feeling of thanks in the midst of the damage. It’s a feeling echoed by the appearance of a rainbow the sun peeked out once again.

“We’re lucky we didn’t get hurt a lot worse,” said Stetler. “We could have been a whole lot worse.”

Among the stories of it could have been a lot worse, Anderson says there was a homeowner on Newcastle Road who was cutting grass when the storm blew in. He pulled his lawn mower into the garage, seconds before it was destroyed. Anderson says he’s lucky to be alive.

That homeowner declined to be interviewed by News 18 Friday evening.