A tornado damaged several homes in the Columbia City area as severe weather caused problems throughout the Midwest Sunday.
Two people were hurt in a the Countryside mobile home park, according to the Columbia City Police Department. Their injuries were reportedly minor, as was the damage to most of the structures. However, in one area near the east end of the park some trailers were blown off their foundations and destroyed. Neighbors helped each other escape the wreckage; emergency responders from around the area hurried to the scene, even as a tornado warning remained in effect. Temporary shelter was made available for homeless residents at a nearby funeral home.
The National Weather Service confirmed a funnel cloud that police officers first spotted at about 5 p.m. near the Wabash/Whitley County line. About half an hour later, trained weather spotters saw another funnel on the north side of Fort Wayne, although that has not been confirmed. The stormed moved in a northeast direction, producing heavy rain, lightning, and straight line wind gusts measured at over 60 mph. Several buildings reportedly suffered wind damage.
A total of 22 tornadoes were confirmed throughout the country on Sunday.
In Noble County, damage was confined to straight line winds and flooding. The strongest winds actually hit after the storm moved through, as rain ended, skies cleared, and temperatures began dropping. Lightning and wind gusts were blamed for 7 false automatic alarms, 4 reports of trees down across roadways, false 911 calls, and 2 cases in which wires were blown down.
The wind followed a day of heavy rain that itself produced 9 reports of flooded roads. It was a troublesome combination, as high water signs kept getting blown down by the winds, and a stop sign was also lost.
In Albion, a crossing gate at the Orange Street CSX Railroad crossing was first bent, then torn off by the wind, and had to be replaced. At Walnut and Oak streets, flood water came up through a storm drain so forecfully that it reportedly pushed away a manhole cover. Albion firefighters responded to a report of wires and limbs down on Skinner Lake Drive, and were able to clear an obstruction from that road. A short time later they assisted a stranded motorist whose vehicle got hung up on a fallen log. However, no injuries were reported in Noble County, which was never put within the National Weather Service's tornado watch area.
Two outbuildings were destroyed by fire at a rural southwest Noble County farm Wednesday, March 4.
The blaze broke out at the Steve Gorsuch property at 0800 N 650 W at about 1:13 p.m., and within minutes of its discovery Noble County Sheriff's Department dispatchers received multiple 911 calls. Responding firefighters could see a heavy column of smoke from miles away, as flames engulfed one barn and quickly spread to a second one.
The cause of the blaze was believed to be a grass fire that spread to the buildings. No injuries were reported.
Albion and Noble Township fire trucks initially responded, and calls quickly went out
for assistance from the Cromwell Fire Department. When flames spread into several acres of grass and fields around the buildings, four wheel drive brush trucks responded from the Ligonier and Orange Township departments, and a water tanker later was sent from North Webster. Over a dozen emergency units were involved, including a Noble County EMS unit that stood by as a precaution.
Firefighters remained on the scene for almost four hours.
A Kendallville fire crew that came to the Albion fire station for standby was called away at 4:18 p.m., when an outbuilding full of furniture caught fire at 11084 N SR 3, north of Kendallville. Other standby units were called from the Johnson Township and Thorn Creek Fire Departments.
Fourteen Albion firefighters responded to the call, manning a fire engine, tanker and brush truck.
A Chain O' Lakes Correctional Facility inmate who fled a work crew in Ligonier Friday was caught in Fort Wayne two days later.
Daniel Turner, 19, was working with a Department Of Corrections crew along the Elkhart River in Ligonier when he walked away, according to the state DOC. The escape was discovered at about 12:15 p.m., and officers from several agencies were immediately called in to begin searching for him.
Turner, a black male wearing a kahki shirt and pants and work boots, was serving time for an Allen County robbery, and could have been released as early as August 9. He'd been at the Chain O' Lakes facility since February 4. At least one report indicated Turner, whose last known residence was in South Carolina, was seen asking directions to Fort Wayne.
The search included K-9 dogs and units of the Ligonier Police Department, Noble County Sheriff's Department, and Indiana State Police, along with an ISP aircraft. Norfolk Southern Railroad crews were instructed to watch for the suspect, and West Noble Schools were alerted. Police followed up on several reports called in by local residents, but were not able to locate their prey.
On Sunday Fort Wayne Police located Turner in that city, and took him into custody. He faces a possible escape charge that could add more time to his sentance than he was originally scheduled to serve.
The Chain O' Lakes location is a minimum security facility that houses about 150 inmates.