Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

July 11, 2013

Peru cleans up after destructive storm

National Weather service says tornado touched down; two houses condemned.

PERU – Roberta Johnson, 74, sat on her neighbor’s porch Thursday afternoon looking across at her house on West 2nd Street, where a towering tree sprawled across the roof.It’s laid there since Wednesday afternoon, when a F1 tornado touched down near Peru, bringing with it 95-mile-an-hour winds and torrential rain.“I’m just glad nobody got hurt,” she said.And getting hurt was a real possibility. Johnson said she was babysitting three of her grandkids when the storm hit her house at 608 W. 2nd Street, where she’s lived for nearly 40 years.Winds speeds were so ferocious it drove two tree limbs through the walls into the living room, where one of the kids had just left moments before.“They were frantic and screaming,” said the kids’ father, Michael Hawkins.Hawkins and a crew of over 10 people worked till 4:30 a.m. Thursday cutting off branches to alleviate the tons of weight pushing down on his mom’s roof.But Hawkins and his crew weren’t’ the only ones working.All day Thursday, street and electric crews toiled to clear debris from streets and get power returned to businesses and residents after downed power lines knocked out around 60 percent of the city’s electricity Wednesday afternoon.Inmates with Indiana Department of Corrections cleared up area parks, where the tornado uprooted more than 100-year-old trees and littered huge branches all over green spaces.Park officials said around 30 trees where down on the city’s golf course. The back 9 holes won’t be open until Monday or Tuesday, officials said, and a golf tournament scheduled for this weekend has been cancelled.Peru Building Commissioner Tom Harp said at least 10 businesses on the city’s west side sustained damage after the tornado, including Paul Richard’s GM Center. Winds tore off bumpers from vehicles parked in the dealership’s lot, blowing them into trees more than four blocks away.He said none of the businesses will be condemned.Harp said the storm totally destroyed two garages and one trailer. Two homes were condemned and will be torn down, he said. Around five other homes along West 2nd Street also sustained serious damage.Johnson said she wants to salvage her house despite roof and structure damage from the fallen tree, She said insurance should cover most of the repair costs.Officials said state and federal agencies have yet to issue the total damage amount caused by the tornado.Despite the wide-spread destruction, Peru Mayor Jim Walker said he doesn’t anticipate the state to name the city a disaster area, and locals most likely won’t qualify for FEMA funds or loans.“If it’s just one home or 100 homes that were damaged, someone is suffering because of this storm,” he said. “To us, it’s a disaster, and we’re going to work with them to get their lives back to normal.”Harp said the city is waiving all fees for renovation and repair permits to fix storm-damaged homes and businesses.Walker said residents cleaning up debris from their homes can leave it near the street or on the curb, and crews will pick it up.“Everyone is cooperating fully and working together,” he said.Walker said it will likely be four to six weeks before the city can clean up all the downed trees and limbs. Carson Gerber can be reached at 765-854-6739, or at carson.gerber@kokomotribune.com.

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