God Had a Hand Over Everybody – Kokomo Resident

The tornadoes damaged 300 homes in Kokomo and destroyed 60 more. About two dozen businesses were destroyed.

On Sunday morning the alerts began coming in. The National Weather Service issued tornado watches in seven states - a fast moving storm capable of producing damaging winds.

Michelle Steelman has been living in her Kokomo home for 27 years, she was following the weather reports before the tornado hit.

“They were having weather alerts on the TV and my step-son turned it on his phone and the radar and we saw it coming and so I went to look out the window and there it was. Just as quick as we knew it was coming, it was here and it was right on top of us,” she says.

More than two dozen tornadoes touched down in Indiana. In Kokomo, two EF02 tornadoes hit – meaning they carried wind speeds up to 135 miles per hour.

“I was looking out the back window and I saw a tree get ripped up out of the ground. Roots and all come swinging between the houses. And I hollered for everyone to hit the dirt take cover. Right about then, the wall busted in and glass just flew everywhere,” Steelman says.

Wendell Miller was just in town for the day. He was inside the kitchen when the tornado came through.

“Like everyone says, you hear the freight train you have to get down. Cause I mean we didn’t even have time to react, it was that quick,” he says.

“I watched my garage disappear and all the windows exploded and all the insulation and I couldn’t see anymore. It just happened that quick. About two seconds it seemed like and then it was over.”

According to the National Weather Service, one of the tornadoes that hit Kokomo was short, but the other one stayed on the ground for about 10 miles.

Steelman and Miller were sorting through the pieces of their lives Monday.

“I don’t know how much I can salvage. Probably just have to start completely over,” Steelman says.

In all the debris, Steelman tried to find pictures and family mementos. Miller surveyed the outside of the house.

“It’s gone. You can see how far in the front it slid off the foundation. This is the worst side hit here because it’s coming from the south. You can see how it separated the wall here,” he says.

Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight surveyed the damage the next day.

“If you look here, the number of homes and the severity of the damage, this is probably the worst. There’s other areas that are close, but i would think this is the toughest part,” he says.

The tornadoes damaged 300 homes in Kokomo and destroyed 60 more. About two dozen businesses were destroyed.

Although no one was killed, more than 30 people were taken to the hospital. But emergency officials say none of their injuries were serious.

“Around here as you can see it’s total devastation. But everybody is OK. Thank God for that. You can tell God had a hand over everybody,” Miller says.

In Kokomo, there’s a lot of talk about the 1965 Palm Sunday tornadoes. Ten tornadoes hit Indiana on that day and one of the twisters took a path very similar to the one that bore down on Kokomo this past Sunday.

The Palm Sunday disaster is still the deadliest tornado outbreak in Indiana history. 137 people were killed in Indiana and more than 1,200 were injured.

Sara Wittmeyer

Sara Wittmeyer is the News Bureau Chief for WFIU and WTIU. Sara has more than a decade of experience as a news reporter and previously served with KBIA at the University of Missouri, WNKU at Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, KY, and at WCPO News in Cincinnati.

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