Elkhart County storm downs trees, causes power outages

Storms have caused minor damage and power outages in and around Elkhart County.

Posted on June 29, 2012 at 1:00 a.m.

ELKHART — Residents who lost power in Friday’s mid-day storm may be facing a sticky weekend.

A thunderstorm that rumbled across the region from LaPorte County to Delaware County left 107,000 Indiana Michigan Power customers without electricity. The utility is working to reconnect service and is calling in crews from other states to help, but the restoration could take all weekend because of the number of downed power lines.

“It’s going to be a lengthy restoration process because of the area involved and the amount of damage we are seeing out there,” said I&M spokesman Dave Mayne. “The public should be prepared for a day or two with no power.”

Late Friday evening, the power company updated its assessment and predicted Elkhart repairs could be completed by very late tonight.

Northern Indiana Public Service Co., which supplies electricity to most of Elkhart County, did not have an estimate for when power would be restored to its customers. About 28,000 NIPSCO ratepayers lost service and by 9 p.m. Friday, 23,377 remained without power.

It, too, is bringing in addition crews to repair the damage.

As the storm passed through Elkhart, temperatures fell into the 60s. However, the thermometer is expected to soar into the 90s both today and Sunday, according to AccuWeather.

Clouds rolled into Elkhart County late morning and a few hours later produced strong gusts of wind along with a much-needed rain shower. The Elkhart city fire department received the first call of damage about 2 p.m. then spent the next five hours attending to multiple downed power lines.

“It was just a real surge of wind for a short period of time but it caused havoc,” said Battalion Chief Brett Schrock.

A large evergreen tree in front of the Elkhart Police station on Waterfall Drive was uprooted and left leaning against the brick building.

Following the storm, Maria Brewer, who lives along Strong Avenue, stepped from her house to take a closer look at a branch that had fallen just a block down Myrtle Street. She said it was a miracle that none of her neighbors were injured in the fast-changing weather.

“I’m glad to see some rain but not this way,” Brewer said. “Mother Nature has its ways and I’m just glad no one got hurt.”

A downed power line did ignite a small grass fire at 3610 Bent Oak Trail, according to Schrock. The fire was threatening a wooded area but the rain and a strip of pavement slowed its movement, helping firefighters extinguish the flames quickly.

I&M is continuing to access the damage and make plans for the restoration process, Mayne said. The power company does give priority to reconnecting electricity to medical facilities and human service agencies.

The utility cautioned residents to stay away from anything that looks like a downed power line and call either I&M at 800-311-4634 or local 911.

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