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Homes damaged, several injured in Randolph County storms


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Severe weather caused widespread damage to Winchester, Indiana, Thursday night.

WINCHESTER, Indiana — Emergency officials in Randolph County are assessing the damage from a tornado that hit Winchester Thursday night.

The National Weather Service confirmed on Friday, the tornado that hit Winchester had a preliminary EF3 rating based on the damage. An EF3 tornado has winds of 136-165 mph.

The storm hit Winchester, a city of around 5,000 people roughly 20 miles east of Muncie, around 8 p.m. as a tornado-warned storm moved east from Delaware County into Randolph County. Multiple buildings and homes in the city were completely destroyed, authorities said.

In an update early Friday, the Randolph County Homeland Security Emergency Management Agency said 38 injuries had been reported, with 12 people transported to nearby hospitals.

The agency said no deaths had been reported, and no people were reported missing as of 3:30 a.m. March 15.

Winchester Mayor Bob McCoy said in a press conference Friday morning that three of those injured are believed to be in critical condition. Twenty-two homes were possibly destroyed, and more than 100 were badly damaged. Some businesses, like a Taco Bell, were completely leveled.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said state agencies such as INDOT, Indiana State Police and the Indiana Department of Homeland Security will “be here until the job is done” and said the state would work to streamline resources to people impacted.

Around 3:20 a.m., 4,756 customers were without power in Randolph County in connection with the storm.

Officials were beginning a damage assessment Friday morning.

Early Friday morning, a 13News crew just east of downtown Winchester saw entire buildings destroyed, as well as downed power lines and tree limbs.

Indiana Task Force 1 was requested to assist local first responders with searching buildings. The team posted a video of its 2:30 a.m. departure for Winchester on social media early Friday.

The Indiana Department of Homeland Security said in a statement that the Red Cross had set up at Winchester High School, located at 700 N. Union Street. A reunification center is at Wapahani High School, located at 10401 E. County Road 167 South, for any displaced residents “or others who may have been separated from loved ones during the storms.”

Indiana State Police initially confirmed three deaths in the storm to NBC News, but the Indiana Department of Homeland Security said shortly before midnight that those deaths were not confirmed. IDHS said state and local officials were still working to confirm the earlier reports.

Indiana State Police Supt. Doug Carter said the initial report of three fatalities came from someone at ISP, but that the report wasn’t “nefarious” in nature. 

IDHS also said a nursing home in Winchester was evacuated when it lost power. Several residents were taken to the hospital. 

Carter described many of the injuries from the storm as “significant.”

Gov. Eric Holcomb posted a statement on social media after the storms hit Winchester.

A tornado warning was issued for Randolph County shortly before 7:45 p.m. Thursday. 13News viewer Shawn Mead shared video of a tornado near Winchester:

The Randolph County Sheriff’s Department has closed State Road 32 from State Road 1 to U.S. 27 – a stretch of about 9 miles – due to debris and downed power lines following Thursday’s storms. U.S. 27 between State Road 28 and U.S. 36 have also been closed due to storm debris.

State police are asking the public to avoid the area. Those wishing to volunteer can go to the White River Volunteer Fire Department at 1023 North Old Highway 27 in Winchester.

“There is going to be a time for that, but that time is not tonight,” Carter said to people coming to the middle of the town trying to help.

State police added that temporary shelters have been set up at Winchester Community High School and Willard Elementary School.

As officials continue their investigation and search for more potential victims, Carter urged anyone who is unable to locate a loved one after the storm to call the local police dispatch line to report it. The non-emergency dispatch number in Winchester is 765-584-1721. 

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Homes damaged, several injured in Randolph County storms

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