The National Weather Service rated the first tornado to hit Howard County on Aug. 24 as an EF-3 with winds more than 150 miles per hour. This picture shows the radar and velocity image of the storm as it ripped through Kokomo. (Herald Photo/courtesy of the National Weather Service)
The National Weather Service rated the first tornado to hit Howard County on Aug. 24 as an EF-3 with winds more than 150 miles per hour. This picture shows the radar and velocity image of the storm as it ripped through Kokomo. (Herald Photo/courtesy of the National Weather Service)
On Aug. 24, for the second time in three years, a large tornado ripped through the heart of Kokomo, taking an eerily similar path to the November 2013 twin twisters. And once again, residents in the area will spend days, weeks and months clearing debris and rebuilding.

In all, the National Weather Service confirmed six tornadoes in Central Indiana, including four in Howard County – all without a tornado watch in place. There were also reports of at least 10 funnel clouds associated with what the NWS called “multiple supercell thunderstorms.” Along with Howard County, Crawfordsville was hit with an EF-2 tornado that damaged homes near Linnsburg while an EF-0 tornado damaged some homes in Indianapolis near 25th and LaSalle Streets. A total of 21 tornadoes were confirmed in Indiana and Ohio.

“A unique combination of extreme low level moisture and a passing upper level disturbance provided the trigger for severe storms,” the NWS said in a statement. “Even though the clouds remained in place for most of the day and it did not get very warm, there was just enough instability to allow storms to develop. There was also a high degree of shear in the lowest levels of the atmosphere, which allowed multiple tornadoes to form.”

The four Howard County twisters ranged from an EF-0 to a powerful EF-3:

Tornado No. 1 was the strong EF-3 which was on the ground from 3:20 to 3:34 p.m. and produced winds up to 152 miles per hour. The storm tore a path of destruction 8.78 miles long and at its max was 300-yards wide (three football fields). The tornado touched down near the intersection of Malfalfa Road and West Boulevard and ended near 400 East and 150 North in eastern Howard County.

Tornado No. 2 was an EF-1 which was on the ground from 5:40 to 6:42 p.m., packing winds up to 100 mph while traveling 17.24 miles from near Flora through northern Howard County. The tornado was up to 100-yards wide at times and caused minor damage as it spent most of its life over open fields.

Tornado No. 3 was an EF-1 that was short-lived, causing minor damage to a garage from 7:00 to 7:02 p.m. near Russiaville. It was on the ground for 1.51 miles.

Tornado No. 4 was an EF-0 that hit south of Chippendale Golf Club and traveled 1.09 miles from 7:18 to 7:20 p.m. Wind damage was also associated with this cell that was tracked as a funnel cloud for miles.

Damage assessments confirmed 1,002 structures in Howard County suffered some form of damage from the tornado outburst: 81 structures were destroyed, 173 had major damage, 355 had minor damage and another 393 were affected. Even with all of the destruction – three apartment complexes were heavily damaged – only 11 people reported minor injuries. 

A dollar amount has not been assigned to the damage as insurance adjusters are still in the community, but it will go well into the millions – the 2013 storm caused nearly $3 million in damage to homes alone. The 2016 tornado outbreak impacted Howard Haven and residences along West Boulevard, continued into the city, causing heavy damage to the Kokomo Country Club, Park Place Apartments, Highland Park, South Side Youth Baseball League and Garden Square Apartments, along with dozens of homes. The path was clearly visible along a residential stretch from Highland Park to the old Kokomo Spring factory – following along Firman Street. 

The Starbucks at the Markland Mall was totally destroyed as customers were inside, huddled in a bathroom. The twister then continued through the Cedar Crest subdivision and into eastern Howard County, where it struck more homes.

The United Way of Howard County was activated, as were the American Red Cross and Salvation Army. According to Beth Rattray of the United Way, nearly 5,000 volunteers have signed up on the organizations website. The United Way will soon transition from a Disaster Response Center to a Long Term Recovery Team, much like it did in 2013. For those needing assistance, the 2-1-1 resource hotline is available to assist. 

While volunteers are needed to help with cleanup and rebuilding, Rattray stressed that they should first register with the United Way. The Indiana State Police agrees and released the following statement: “Please do not self-deploy. Sometimes that causes more confusion than assistance.” The department is still patrolling affected areas and minor looting of affected areas has been reported.

Howard County Commissioner Tayler Moore said the response to the disaster was immediate, from city and county resources to charities.

“It was a collective response effort – so many people came together as soon as the first tornado came through,” he said. “I think the lessons that we learned from three years ago, and the policies put into place, really rang true and helped people sooner. I couldn’t be happier with the response time and the coordination of all of the agencies. Everyone came together.”

The commissioner and lifelong resident said he is proud to call Kokomo home and was thrilled with how quickly the community volunteered to assist.

“I would say Kokomo Strong was resurrected, but in reality, it never went away,” said Moore. “Friends and neighbors helped out within minutes. And our relief agencies were Johnny-on-the-spot. Commissioners hat aside, I am so proud to be a part of this community.”

Moore said without a tornado watch being issued, the county Everbridge alert system worked to notify citizens of the pending danger. Now, he stresses the need to get more people signed up for the free service that sends instant emergency alerts to emails and phones. 

“One of the big differences from three years ago is the Everbridge system is in place,” said Moore. “I heard from so many people that their phones went crazy and they should move to shelter. I would like to think that played a major part as to why we didn’t have any fatalities. We hope those who have not signed on will take advantage of the service. It is free and they just need to go to the website and signup.”

For more information, visit the United Way webpage at www.unitedwayhoco.org and click on the Tornado Recovery tab, or visit the Howard County webpage at www.howardcountyin.gov and click on the Emergency Alert and Public Notices System tab.