Storms damage Tippecanoe County business

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There was widespread damage when storms moved through central Indiana on Sunday, and one Tippecanoe County business was hit hard.

The VoestAlpine plant just west of I-65 in Lafayette had significant damage, with at least one wall collapsing. Workers were on duty at the factory, which makes auto parts and safety components, but they received a warning signal before the storm arrived. Those ten shift workers were able to evacuate to a safe location before the south end of the building came down thanks to an alert from their warning system.

Chad Gibson is a shift supervisor at the plant.

"They said when they got the weather alert from the new system that we put in, they had about five or six minutes of warning. They headed for the shelter. Of course there were a lot of loud noises. They walked out seeing the destruction. Of course, you can imagine they were pretty shaken but nobody sustained any type of injuries," said Gibson.

The factory uses an overhead crane system, which collapsed during the system.

"We have two overhead cranes. They run on the same rail system. One of the cranes is still stable. This one here landed on top of a couple of machines," he said.

Asked to describe what he saw, "I've worked here since almost day one; pretty much devastation. It's been a big part of me for the last 12 years so it is a little heart-breaking to see this - but knowing that we'll be able to rebuild and recoup from this."

Gibson said the company was asking for volunteers from the first and second crews to arrive at 8:00 am to help with clean-up.

Indiana State Police at the Lafayette Post helped local police departments as soon as calls started coming in Sunday.

In addition to the damage at VoestAlpine, there were road closures, poles down and debris scattered across roadways and fields.

Tippecanoe County along with White, Carroll, Montgomery and Fountain Counties felt the strength of the passing storm. As buildings were damaged, vehicles were tossed around and roads were blocked by trees, light poles and sometimes debris from buildings destroyed as the force of the storm made its way through the area.

Southwestern Junior High School on County Road 800 South, three miles west of US 231, had heavy damage. State troopers directed traffic around the school to prevent onlookers from coming onto school grounds.

There were also property damage crashes on I-65 in White and Tippecanoe Counties and I-74 in Fountain County. No life-threatening injuries were reported.

As of 9:00 pm Sunday, roads had not been cleared and potential hazardous conditions still could be present.