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Remnants of Hurricane Beryl cause tornadoes in Indiana

Remnants of Hurricane Beryl cause tornadoes in Indiana

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MOUNT VERNON, Ind. – The storm that became Hurricane Beryl formed on June 28 in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, hundreds of miles north of Brazil.

Eleven days later, after the storm devastated islands in the Caribbean, drenched Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, and raged along the Texas coast, Beryl showed it still had power, spawning tornadoes across the tri-state area.

A supercell thunderstorm formed in western Kentucky and spawned what the National Weather Service called a “large and dangerous” tornado that moved through parts of Union County and crossed the Ohio River into Indiana. In Mount Vernon, the storm ripped off roofs, derailed railroad cars and smashed mobile homes before moving north toward the Posey-Gibson county line.

Authorities initially had the good news that no one was injured. However, scientists and insurance experts will continue to conduct weeks of investigations to determine the extent of the damage.

This was supposed to start on Wednesday. On that day, the National Weather Service wanted to send out two damage assessment teams to determine the intensity of the tornadoes and find their place on the famous Enhanced Fujita (EF) scale.

One team will work on the Kentucky side of the river while the other will track damage from Mount Vernon north to near Poseyville, where damage to homes and other buildings was also reported. The small unincorporated town of Johnson in Gibson County also sustained some damage.

But the people of Mount Vernon, a city in Posey County with more than 6,000 residents, know one thing about the magnitude of the storm even without outside help: It was massive.

The tornado came from Kentucky’s Ohio River and caused damage to several areas of the Port of Indiana. The port is considered one of America’s “largest inland ports” in terms of size and volume of shipping. Each year, 3,700 barges, 200,000 trucks and 45,000 rail cars pass through the facility, hauling away everything from corn and wheat to limestone and pig iron.

The tornado hit the port shortly before 4:30 p.m.

“I saw it come down, go back up, and then come back down,” Jerrod Prather, a Nutrien Ag Solutions terminal manager, told the Courier & Press. Prather said he was able to safely observe the tornado storm in Mount Vernon thanks to a well-placed Nutrien Ag Solutions surveillance camera.

From there, the storm struck a nearby Mead Johnson warehouse, a shopping center with a grocery store and a Mexican restaurant, and then swept through a mobile home park just north of there.

Black Township Fire Chief Jay Price told reporters outside the Dollar Tree in a shopping center on Indiana 62 that his crews had responded to numerous gas leaks and several reports of severe damage. But wherever they were, everyone was there.

“Thank God,” he said. “As far as I know, there have been no injuries reported anywhere in the county from this tornado or weather system.”

Indiana State Police Sergeant Todd Ringle said troopers are also not aware of any traffic-related injuries. The tornado and storm surge hit Mount Vernon just as workers were heading home. Traffic was backed up on major and rural roads as emergency crews had to close roads due to debris, downed power lines and reported gas leaks.

The cleanup will take some time, however. A Kenco Logistics warehouse was badly damaged. Several buildings at the Port of Indiana were also badly damaged, including a grain elevator whose roof was torn off. 14 families were displaced from the trailer park.

Price was in the process of organizing an ambulance to the west of the city when the first reports of damage came in.

“We were a little delayed in responding because our emergency dispatch center was down,” he said. “So they came back and told us there was trouble on the east side of Mount Vernon. I think I was the first unit to arrive.”

Price said he and his crews were repairing the damage at the Consolidated Grain and Barge facility, and they also saw overturned train cars and a number of downed power poles.