PENDLETON — A pile of tiny American flags was carefully stacked in a wicker chair on Charlene Allen’s porch. Several more flags could be seen crushed beneath the fallen tree limbs covering her front yard.
Allen spent Tuesday morning recovering flags the couple had put on display for Memorial Day.
“My husband was very upset because the flags were on the ground,” she said. “He is a veteran.”
Allen’s front yard was littered with debris. A power pole dangled from the utility wires above, like a bobber on a fishing line.
Allen and hundreds of other residents and recovery crews spent Tuesday working to restore the damage caused by a tornado that hit Pendleton Memorial Day evening. The National Weather Service confirmed the tornado was an EF-2, with speeds as high as 135 mph.
Thousands were without power for most of the day Tuesday, and as many as 2,500 people were still without electricity late in the evening.
Officials said 15 people spent the night at Pendleton Heights High School in an emergency shelter that will remain open until further notice. South Madison Community Schools were closed Tuesday and will remain closed Wednesday.
Todd Harmeson, public information officer with the Madison County Emergency Management Agency, said only one person was reported injured during the storm. The person suffered a cut to the forehead and was treated and released from a local hospital.
Law enforcement agencies reported about 75 homes damaged by the storm after a door-to-door canvas of the area, but that number is expected to climb as more assessments are made, Harmeson said.
The storm hit the Pendleton and Huntsville area about 8:20 p.m. Monday. Roads to most of the area damaged by the storm remained closed Tuesday. Some residents were evacuated after a gas line ruptured.
An eastern portion of Pendleton, from Indiana 67 to Pendleton Avenue, was reopened at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Harmeson said.
Allen, 66, was at home in the 200 block of Water Street when the tornado hit.
The power flickered, and her daughter, who lives on the other side of Pendleton, along South Main Street, phoned to tell her a tornado had been spotted and to take shelter in the bathroom.
“I looked out our door, and I saw it twirling right there,” she said, pointing to the sky above a neighbor's house across the street. “My husband was in the sun room in the back, and the house just felt weird all of a sudden.”
Allen said it seemed as if the windows would blow inward.
“All of a sudden, everything was slowing down,” she said. “They say it’s over like that (suddenly), but it really wasn’t. It lasted for a few minutes.”
Over the telephone, Allen heard her granddaughter scream in the background. The girl had just seen a deer, caught by the wind, flip end-over-end in her family's backyard.
On Tuesday, Allen noted the mangled condition, from the storm’s high winds, of the trees across the street.
“Our neighbor’s trees are twisted,” she said. “They say that is how the weather people tell if it's a tornado. I don’t think it actually touched down anywhere here in town. I think it just hovered."
Allen and her husband evacuated their home overnight because of the broken gas line. When they returned home Tuesday, they found little damage to their property.
Allen hoped the power would be restored soon.
“I need a shower really bad,” she said with a laugh.
Dave McMullen, 68, was on his back porch as the storm passed over Pendleton.
"It was awesome to watch," he said. "All that power. The birds left. They knew what was coming."
Shanna White, 33, said it was a rough Monday night without electricity at her Taylor Street home, where she took shelter in the pantry when the tornado hit.
“I had the window open, and it didn’t stay too (hot) in there," White explained. "But it was just a long night of sirens, dogs barking and trucks coming up and down the street.”
White spent most of Tuesday morning walking around town to see the damage.
“It’s heartbreaking,” she said. “It’s sad to come out and see this.”
Allen felt the same way.
“Our little town is devastated,” she said.
Follow Traci L. Miller @_TraciMiller on Twitter, email her at email@example.com, or call her at 765-640-4805.
How you can help
The United Way of Madison County is collecting tornado relief fund donations for Pendleton. Visit the donation site at bit.ly/30ICSdU. Donations can be made with a PayPal account. One hundred percent of the donations will support tornado relief efforts in Pendleton.
A volunteer reception center is scheduled to open Wednesday to help manage volunteers assisting with the cleanup. Details about the location and times for the center were unavailable Tuesday, said Todd Harmeson, a spokesman for Madison County Emergency Management Agency.