News From Terre Haute, Indiana

November 18, 2013

Tornadoes, severe storms hit Midwest

Two injured, church ‘wiped out’ in Vermillion County

Dianne Frances D. Powell
The Tribune-Star

RILEYSBURG — A tornado touched down in northern Vermillion County Sunday afternoon, which injured two and destroyed property as severe weather went through the Wabash Valley, officials said.

The tornado hit the small town of Rileysburg — a mile south of Interstate 74 on the east side of the Indiana-Illinois state line — around 1:55 p.m. Two men were sent to a local hospital with head injuries, which did not appear to be life threatening, authorities said.

According to the Vermillion County Sheriff's Office, the two men were in a trailer home — which was overturned and destroyed — on County Road 1650, just west of the Beef House Restaurant. Another trailer home in the same area was also destroyed, but it was not occupied at the time.

But the tornado “completely destroyed” the Rileysburg Community Church, a historic building, which just completed Sunday services earlier in the day, Vermillion County Sheriff Robert J. Spence said.

“There was nobody at the church at the time it was hit but there very well could have been earlier in the day,” Spence told the Tribune-Star.

“There were people who made comments to me that they had never seen anything like this before,” Spence said.

There were a lot of thankful people, he said, who told him how fortunate and lucky they were to have escaped the tornado.

Located in the southwest end of town, the church was next to houses and businesses that were also damaged, the sheriff said.

About a dozen homes were affected, he said.

A train car from the CSX railroad was overturned during the storm and left the railway completely blocked, according to a release.  

The church, houses, business and the train tracks “were grouped right there together,” Spence said.

Scattered rain and thunderstorms moved through the Wabash Valley midday Sunday. A wind advisory was in effect for many counties, including Vermillion, Vigo, Sullivan and Clay, among others.

Tornado watches and warnings were also issued.

According to the National Weather Service, winds at 30 mph or more with gusts around 55 mph moved through the area.

Vigo and Clay counties had trees, branches and power lines down.

Some homes in the Valley were also left without electricity.

As of 7:30 p.m. Sunday, 3,219 customers in Vigo County and 647 in Vermillion County had no power, according to Duke Energy.

Back in the small town of Rileysburg, many people were thankful to have survived the brief tornado.

“I think there was a lot of thankfulness and surprise that the tornado came so quickly and left quickly,” Spence said.

Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or dianne.powell@tribstar.com.