THEY LIKE IT ... A group of ducks discovered an impromptu pond along US 224 at the eastern edge of Preble on Wednesday afternoon after heavy rain hit the area. (Photo by Eric Mann)
BEDFORD, Ind. (AP) — Strong storms and possible tornadoes ripped through southern Indiana Wednesday night, injuring more than a dozen people and flattening homes, barns and other structures while scattering debris along their paths, authorities said.
An apparent tornado struck east of Bedford as powerful thunderstorms swept across Indiana, damaging buildings, toppling mobile homes and trees across several counties while winds cut power to more than 60,000 homes and businesses.
At least a dozen people suffered minor injuries in Bedford, and six others were taken to the hospital in Bloomington with non-life-threatening injuries after high winds struck a mobile home park in Bloomington.
Two of the victims suffered head injuries, and county highway workers freed two children, ages 13 and 7, who had been trapped in one of the mobile homes, said Mike Pershing, chief deputy for the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department.
The number of tornadoes that struck the state wasn’t expected to be known until the National Weather Service could send crews to survey the damage. But there were numerous reports of funnel clouds and touchdowns.
Tyler Earl, a dispatcher with the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department, said a tornado created a ‘‘wide damage path’’ in an area east of Bedford about 20 miles south of Bloomington.
Television footage showed what appeared to be the path of a tornado through a farm field in the rural area, smashed trees and then the ruins of what appeared to be a home and a concrete foundation and a damaged car tipped onto its side.
Brenda Lee, who lives along U.S. 50 east of Bedford, told The Times-Mail that she, her son and grandson Austin, 14, were standing in her front yard just moments before the tornado hit.
‘‘We saw it coming. We were watching the clouds,’’ she said. ‘‘Austin went back in the house. That’s when I saw dirt stir up. I said, ‘It’s hitting the ground!’ and we ran into the house.’’’
She said her grandson and son took shelter in a crawl space, while she jumped into a bathtub.
Lee said her neighbors, a couple and their two children, were injured in the storm.
Lawrence County Sheriff Sam Craig said several homes were destroyed in that rural area east of Bedford and that three or four children were among the injured. None of the injuries were believed serious.
‘‘We’re very fortunate,’’ Craig said.
Sgt. Brian Olehy of Indiana State Police said the same storm system that hit the east side of Bedford appears to have also caused damage about six miles away in adjacent Jackson County in the town of Norman. No injuries were reported there, he said.
In Bloomington, tow truck driver Martin Poteat was in the parking lot of the Walmart on the city’s south side when the storm struck. He said it ripped a cart corral loose and sent it smashing into his truck as a debris cloud swirled.
‘‘Everything came up off the ground. Everything was just flying,’’ he said.
In Columbus, a man was injured when he was struck by a falling tree limb, The Republic reported.
The weather service said baseball-sized hail and wind gusts of up to 70 mph were earlier reported in Greensburg. Video from WTHR-TV showed roofs ripped off hangars at the Greensburg airport and a large silo damaged in the community about 50 miles southeast of Indianapolis.
The weather service also posted a flash flood watch for the Fort Wayne area after the city received 2.39 inches of rain, a record for the date.