Thunderstorms pushed through Fort Wayne again Saturday as Allen County tries to recover from a storm that included wind gusts of up to 91 mph that littered streets with downed trees and branches. More than 107,000 electrical customers in the region were without power – and air conditioning – still this morning as high temperatures in the mid-90s are expected all next week. The massive power outages – which I&M predicts could last until midnight Wednesday for some – and damage had the New Haven Police Department recommending Friday night that drivers suspend unnecessary night travel so emergency crews could get through. The city of Fort Wayne is extending operation of its cooling centers, and the American Red Cross has opened a shelter for those without air conditioning.
The National Weather Service reported wind speeds of 63 mph with gusts up to 91 mph at 3:05 p.m. The weather-radio transmitter at Fort Wayne International Airport was knocked off the air about the same time the storm came through.
Residents who tried to listen for news on their weather radios during Friday’s storm found nothing, and the service had not been restored as of early this morning. The weather service suggested tuning in to Angola’s broadcast at 162.425 MHZ.
According to the weather service, the airport had recorded .43 inch of rain through 7 a.m. Saturday.
Friday’s storm left Northern Indiana Health Systems running on limited power. The facility late Friday night urged veterans in need of medical services to go to non-VA medical facilities for the time being.
In a news release it asked all veteran patients in the Fort Wayne area with a medical emergency to report to either St. Joseph or Parkview hospitals for treatment.
Veterans in need of medical attention who are outside the Fort Wayne area are advised to go to the nearest community hospital for treatment, the release said.
Notification will be made when the medical systems return to full power, according to the release.
According to a news release from I&M, those without power might have to do without for an extended period, as well, with the release stating: “Due to the large area affected by the storm and the severity of damage, those affected by the storm should prepare for the possibility of a prolonged restoration process.”
I&M would work to assess the damage before sending crews to fix power lines, I&M community relations director Sarah Bodner said, adding that many people should expect to be without power for at least a day.
“People should prepare for a prolonged outage,” she said. “Power’s not coming back on tonight.”
Two city cooling centers remained open Saturday at the Lifetime Sports Academy in the McMillen Park Golf Clubhouse and the Jennings Center, 1330 McCulloch St.
The Lifetime Sports Academy was to be open 9 a.m.-7 p.m. with the Jennings Center’s hours set at 3-7 p.m.
The cooling centers were opened amid record-breaking temperatures Thursday.
Residents, including those in Aboite Township and in the historic Brookview Civic neighborhood along the Spy Run Creek between Clinton Street and State Boulevard, reported hearing tornado sirens go off.
At least two homes in the 1900 block of Forest Valley Drive in the Lake Forest addition of the Georgetown Square area had major structural damage after trees fell on them.
Lines 15 deep were seen at the Little Caesar’s pizza restaurant on State Boulevard at Coliseum Boulevard at around 5 p.m. Friday as those possibly without power – or too rattled – looked for another source for their dinner. Across the street at Lowe’s, foot traffic was heavy as residents sought generators and other tools to cope with the storm damage.
As vendors were setting up at around 2:30 p.m. Friday for the weekly Historic Main Street Farmers Market, their eyes were on the furiously darkening sky.
“That’s it,” said one woman setting up as she immediately started to pull down her canopy.
Within moments, Main Street was covered in darkness as dirt flew in every direction and trees snapped. A black power line hung over West Main Street just east of the Carole Lombard Bridge. Fort Wayne Police officers began reporting downed trees on streets, according to scanner traffic.
Downtown, people scrambled indoors to get away from flying dust and debris, and powerful gusts tore large plates of sheet metal from the side of the Anthony Wayne Building, which is under renovation.
“The wind was pretty much ripping and roaring through downtown,” said Michael Barranda, a lawyer who works in the 1st Source Banking Center at 200 E. Main St.
“I looked out my blinds and saw pieces of sheet metal flying off the Anthony Wayne Building two at a time,” he said. “There were a bunch of us huddled together in the office hoping nobody got hurt.”
Witnesses said the high winds tore down at least one billboard on Illinois Road and felled countless trees, blocking streets in many Fort Wayne neighborhoods. Traffic was at a near-standstill on Hillegas Road and Spy Run Avenue shortly after the storm ripped through town, other witnesses reported on Twitter.
Two left-hand lanes of Spy Run near Tennessee Avenue were blocked by downed trees earlier in the afternoon. Every traffic signal on Hillegas from
Coliseum Boulevard West south to West State Boulevard was knocked offline.
Interstate 69 was closed at the 99 mile marker just north of the General Motors Fort Wayne Assembly plant on the city’s southwest end but had reopened by about 4:30 p.m.
The temperature dropped from 91 degrees at 2 p.m. to 68 degrees at 4 p.m., according to the weather service.
Wind was so powerful that some people said their cars were almost uncontrollable In restaurants and stores around the city, people huddled indoors as the storm rolled through.
Many of Fort Wayne’s radio stations were knocked off the air by the storm.
– Elbert Starks of The News-Sentinel contributed to this report.