The devastation we experienced in southern Elkhart County the night of October 18, 2007 was the worst we have experienced in this entire region in over 40 years when I was twelve years old (the F3 and F4 Palm Sunday Tornados of 1965.) And the very worst damage of this one happened this time in and around the community I grew up in, Nappanee, Indiana, with the tornado weaving in and around several homes of families I've known for years and went to church with as a kid. This tornado finally lifted just blocks away from the home my parents lived in prior to their deaths last year.
The incredible MIRACLE in all this, is that though a huge number (an estimated 250) dwellings and business were damaged, with many simply wiped away, in a 2-mile swath along the countryside and in the town, NOT ONE LIFE WAS LOST, with only 5 persons injured, though the tornado came by at 10:30 pm and many did not hear any warning! This is virtually unheard of -- with this kind of twister and the damage it created.
EMS, police and fire crews from several other communities showed up quickly, anticipating that a great number of casualties would be found in the rubble. More than 3,000 people from miles around came voluntarily on the third day to participate in an organized town "clean-up" on Sunday, Oct. 21 -- some churches in the area simply cancelled their services so people could go. What a fantastic response from a very caring community!
I spent last evening (Thursday) with the Nappanee's EMS crew conducting a Critical Incident Stress debriefing for them. Another trained colleague of mine worked with the local police crew and another worked with the fireman the same evening. I heard some incredible stories from these local heroes, but, of course, am not at liberty to share any of that here.
These photos were taken by an RN friend, Evie Tobias, who lives in Nappanee. Five or six pics at the end of this collection I obtained show evidence of the Amish already having organized to rebuild their neighbors' destroyed houses and barns within the week. No waiting around for an insurance adjuster for them! (When you go to this website where I posted them for public observation you can click on the "Slideshow" option at the top - they load and cycle fairly quickly there, while online.)
And this is another collection of stunning photos taken last Sunday, with some commentary interspersed throughout, by a local professional photographer.
Last, but certainly not least, this National Weather Service (actually NOAA's) website has a lot of information about the path of the 10-18-07 Nappanee tornado -- about 20 miles long altogether. It points out where damage was recorded, highlighted with a number of detail photos. If you click on any of them it will provide a close-up, complete with people surveying the damage to their homes, etc. It is a very compelling site if for nothing more than the detail of the destruction involved and reinforcing the miracle that no one was even seriously injured. Plus it provides insight into NOAA and weather data.