Indiana isn't supposed to be a target for hurricanes, but Ike cut a swath through the Midwest that included a stop in Noble County Sunday. Strong winds and heavy rain brought power outages and roadway obstructions, and several emergency agencies responded to Upper Long Lake when a tree came down on a pair of propane tanks, causing both to leak.
Dozens of responders spent five hours at a location near 0322 N Oakwood Drive, where gusty winds blew a full sized tree onto a pair of large propane tanks. A neighbor, alerted by the sound of the crash and venting propane, called 911 at 5:18 p.m.
The tree came down right on the middle of the tanks, crushing valves and piping on the nearest one and causing a leak that could be heard throughout the neighborhood. Firefighters used a spray of water to knock down the escaping gas, which is heavier than air and can accumulate to explosive amounts in low areas. Several homes and other buildings were close by, and variable winds were threatening to blow the explosive fumes toward any of them.
Using an electronic gas monitor, firefighters checked the area for dangerous levels of gas; others used a thermal imaging camera that indicated, by reading temperature differences, that the tank was mostly full.
While water continued to be sprayed on the tanks, a heavy wrecker from Campbell Wrecker Service in Ligonier was able to life the tree off the tanks, but workers then learned that the second tank was leaking. Firefighters had to stand by while North Central Co-op workers transferred as much of the product as they could into tanker trucks, then burned off the rest. The last of the emergency crews didn't return to base until after 11 p.m.
Albion fire trucks were initially dispatched to the leak, followed by Noble Township units. Due to warm temperatures and high humidity relief crews were called in, while several water tankers responded because there are no nearby fire hydrants. Including calls for standby, members of the Albion, Noble Township, Cromwell, Ligonier, Kendallville, and Thorn Creek Fire Departments were involved in the incident.
Noble County Emergency Management Director Michael Newton was also on scene, and the Red Cross was notified in case the evacuation had to be expanded or continued overnight. About fifteen emergency units were on the scene.
It was far from the only weather related incident Sunday. A fire was reported near 5161 W 625 N, where a blown down tree tangled with live wires. Trees or limbs also blew onto wires in Kimmell, and near county roads 600S and 1100 E. There were reports of power outages scattered across the area, including at the Noble County Sheriff's Department.
In addition, trees or large limbs blocked roadways at eight locations, and high water reportedly blocked part of US 6 near Rochester Road in Ligonier. A Road Closed barricade reportedly blew across US 6, at CR 1000 E.
However, no injuries were reported in any of the incidents. Noble County had it much better than areas to the north and northwest, where several inches of rain and high winds causes extensive flooding and many reports of property damage. And, of course, the damage couldn't compare to what happened in Ike's initial target of Texas.
The tree couldn't have hit the two tanks more squarely if it had been aimed at them.
A water fog was used to knock down the fumes and keep them from spreading into nearby homes.
A closeup of the damage. The tree was so heavy that when the eight wheeled wrecker, designed to haul semis, pulled the tree up it made the truck sink into the ground. It's not easy finding something that can tow out a heavy-duty tow truck.
A thermal imaging camera, by detecting differences in temperature, can pick out how much of the tank still holds liquid propane. Unfortunately, that turned out to be almost 80% of the tank. Notice the fire captain in full protective equipment and the gas company worker in ... sideburns.
Another look at the tanks. From this angle you can see the impact not only crushed the valves, but pushed the tank's supports into the ground. This is one of those things that makes firefighters say "oh boy".