Tornado confirmed in Town of Hammond
Approximately four years and two months ago, Barb Pace had a close call with a tornado. An EF-2 twister took out homes about 50 yards away from her Hammond townhouse.
On Aug. 8, Pace had her second close call with a tornado. This time, the EF-0 tornado took off the roof of her family's home on 113th Avenue in the Town of Hammond.
According to the National Weather Service, an EF-0 tornado, which is less severe than an EF-2, with winds around 75 to 80 mph touched down approximately four miles north-northwest of Hammond. It continued eastward for approximately half a mile before lifting off the ground four miles north of the village.
Along with the tornado came a strong rear flank downdraft that damaged some houses just south of the tornado.
While the storm brewed, Barb and husband Bill Pace watched the sky and weather updates on TV. Their daughter Samantha Orman was comfortably resting in their basement, texting her friends and petting the cat.
The weather was "eery," according to Bill.
"It was so muggy, so humid and just still," he said. "You could have heard a fly go past you."
Then the storm got intense. An alert on TV said the storm would hit Hammond at 10:48 p.m.
Hammond Police Chief Rick Coltrain said officers made announcements to the crowd of 750-1,000 people celebrating at Hammond Heartland Days in the Village Park. The police department, not any other organizations, is responsible for enacting the emergency plan.
"We knew about the weather and relayed it to people," Coltrain said.
Although the police told the crowd about the severe weather, Coltrain said he wasn't sure if anyone actually left the festival grounds.
The National Weather Service was pretty accurate on when the storm would get to the Pace house.
"I bet it was 10:50 when it hit," Barb said.
The family heard the rain and wind coming through the cornfield, just east of their home. Barb and Bill, who had been checking on the storm's progress outside, ran into the house.
The tornado headed directly for their house. It touched down twice in the cornfield, marks of which were still somewhat visible five days later.
"If it wasn't a tornado, we have UFOs," Bill joked.
The tornado lifted away from the ground just before getting to the Pace home.
Any lower and the Pace home might not be standing anymore.
"I couldn't even turn around and shut the door," Barb said of the wind's strength.
The couple said they didn't hear a train sound when it passed over their house like many tornado survivors remember.
"I could only hear really, really loud wind," Bill said.
The tornado then passed over Angie Fortney's home. By that time, it was much higher off the ground.
"It sounded kind of like a vacuum sucking," Fortney said. She and her family were taking shelter in their basement at that time.
About 10 seconds after it started, the tornado was over.
Because it was pitch black outside, the Paces didn't know the extent of the damage to their home until the United Fire Department arrived. They did know that there was water in the basement.
When the fire engines' lights were cast on the house, one thing was obvious. A large portion of their roof was gone.
Their garage was moved from its foundation, walls cracked and water leaked in. Their garden was flattened.
Parts of their roof have since been found around the Farm View development. A neighbor's home was damaged when debris from the Pace house struck it.
Clean up and repairs have begun. A crew was hired to vacuum insulation from the lawn, Barb said. Clumps of snow white insulation had already been vacuumed off their siding and scrubbed from their windows. A large blue tarp was stretched over their roof and dehumidifyers were humming to take care of some moisture.
The garden is even starting to perk back up. Only a few days after the tornado, their rows of corn were nearly vertical again.
"No wonder farmers plant corn," Barb commented.
On Thursday, the Paces were still waiting to hear the future of their home.
A contractor said he wanted a structural engineer to look at it before he started work.
"We're just waiting," Barb said. "I can't say what they're going to do."
The Paces said they're grateful to their insurance company and United Fire who arrived immediately after they were notified. Neighbors have also helped the family by bringing meals and beverages to them, they said.
Barb's reputation for tornados may be hard to live down.
"Come back in four years if you want to see a tornado," Bill teased.