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20 years later: Tornado passes 6 miles away from the 2004 Indy 500

20 years later: Tornado passes 6 miles away from the 2004 Indy 500

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — May is a month in Indiana that is no stranger to severe weather.

Twenty years ago on May 30, 2004, the timing and location of severe weather was everything in making it a day to remember.

It was the 88th running of the Indianapolis 500. There was also a Pacers home playoff game against the Pistons that evening.

That year, the Indy 500 started late due to morning rain, and would once again be delayed shortly after the race started with more showers. The track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway would dry out until supercells developed across Indiana in the afternoon. One closed in on the Indy metro area in the evening and had the capability of producing a tornado.

Radar image from WISH-TV on air as former Meteorologist Steve Bray of May 30, 2004

A tornado warning would cut the Indy 500 short by 20 laps as heavy rain also was not too far away from the track.

Tom Carnegie, the track announcer, would say to the crowd, “Marion County, Marion County, a tornado warning, exit the grandstands now.”

Pacers fans also had to find shelter at Conseco Fieldhouse, which is now Gainbridge Fieldhouse, prior to the playoff game. The F2 tornado avoided downtown and passed south of the track, but it caused plenty of damage across the metro area with additional tornadoes in central Indiana.

Tornado paths

An F2 tornado with winds of 113-157 mph started near Harding Street around I-465 and finished in Hancock County. The tornado was on the ground just 6 miles south of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and 4 miles south of downtown.

In total, 15 tornadoes touched down in central Indiana with eight additional ones across the state. The old Fujita scale was used in 2004 (replaced in 2007 by the Enhanced Fujita scale).