Wind, lightning, rain form nasty trio

Dave Weatherwax/The Herald
Dan Lechner, left, Gary Sorgius, Bill Wehr and Allan Auld surveyed damage this morning that a Wednesday evening storm did to Wehr’s grain bins on his farm at county roads 300N and 750W in Ireland. Lechner is from Lechner’s Excavating in Ireland and both Sorgius and Auld are with the Otwell-based Ripco Ltd., the company that built the bins.

Herald Staff Writer

Sylvester “Bud” Durcholz headed toward his attic Wednesday night because he thought his Ireland-area home at 2407 N. 800W had been struck by some of the intense lightning accompanying stormy weather just after 7:30 p.m.

Then he learned the sound he’d associated with a bolt zapping his house had really been his 8-by-8 utility shed ending its 60-foot flight by knocking a hole in his bedroom. It had struck with such force that a dresser was launched across the room. His wife, Ardella, had been in a bathroom off the bedroom and emerged unharmed.

About a mile away, at Bill Wehr’s farm at 2972 N. 750W, winds had demolished four large, metal grain bins.

Dubois Rural Electric Cooperative operations manager Dave Ruhe indicated winds caused most of the damage — including three snapped poles between Otwell and Ireland — Wednesday night.
Many of the other 20 scattered outages that kept REC crews busy through the night were caused by lightning, he said. Ruhe estimated that 1,500 customers in Pike and Dubois counties were without power at one time or the other.

Flash flooding was a problem in the northeast portion of the county.

Photo courtesy Brian Bruner
Brian Bruner captured a photograph of Wednesday night’s storm as it moved over the north side of Jasper a few minutes before 8:30.

Wednesday night’s deluge swamped the Patoka Reservoir area with 2.02 inches of rain. The downpour sent water rising from the reservoir to all points downstream. The reservoir elevation surged from 536.76 feet to 537.26 feet, eclipsing 537 feet for the first time since late March.

The Patoka River three miles north of Jasper nearly doubled in depth, rushing from 5.44 feet early Wednesday morning to 10.85 feet this morning. Likewise, the river near Cuzco swelled from 3.14 feet Wednesday morning to 7.04 feet today. The river north of Jasper today hit its highest point since May 7.

Jasper collected 1.02 inches of rain before midnight. Other rainfall figures were 1.5 inches in Huntingburg, .92 of an inch in Ferdinand, 1.62 inches at Lake Helmerich, 1.05 inches at Celestine and, northwest of Ferdinand, Duckville’s unofficial reading was 1.03 inches of rain
The overnight storm uprooted numerous trees, some of which blocked roadways in the Dubois and Ireland areas.

Ireland Volunteer Fire Chief Stan Seifert and Dubois County Emergency Management Director Tammy Miller were headed to the Ireland area today to take storm survey pictures that will be shared with the National Weather Service in Louisville. The pictures could help determine what kind of winds caused the property damage.

Photo courtesy Kelly Kluesner
At about 7:15 Wednesday night, Kelly Kluesner stepped outside Staples, where she was working on Jasper's north side, to snap this photo of the storm.

There were no glitches when it came to Dubois County’s emergency weather sirens sounding. Miller said they were activated after an Indiana State Police trooper reported a funnel cloud aloft in the Ireland area at 7:33 p.m. and they fired back up at 8:04 p.m. when the NWS office in Louisville issued a tornado warning for the northeast portion of the county.

“If you saw the clouds last night, they were very ominous,” Miller said this morning. She started surveying Ireland-area damage Wednesday night with Seifert and was communicating constantly with the county’s 911 communications center.

The county’s weather siren system was tested extensively in February after sirens failed to go off during a tornado warning. It was found that if dispatchers try to sound a siren before they acknowledge a tornado warning on their computer system, the signal that will set off the sirens will fail. The alert tone blocked the signal to page the sirens.

“As far as teamwork went,” Miller said today, “everything went very well last night.”

The county’s 911 center logged 13 calls during the storm for either alarms sounding or the report of weather-related damage or problems.

Huntingburg’s southwest electric circuit was out for a little more than an hour because of a lightning strike, according to City Energy Superintendent John Reutepohler, and the Dale area reported numerous trees down and transformers hit by lightning, according to Spencer County Emergency Management Director Stephanie Melton.

Durcholz, in addition to having a hole in his bedroom, later discovered that a tree had smashed down on his detached garage and a chunk of the flying shed had cleared his garage and landed in the back of a pickup truck parked outside, breaking its rear window. It was almost exactly one year ago that a big hail storm caused $11,000 in damage to his home. Given the extent of the latest damage, Durcholz said, the 2013 bill will be even higher.

Wednesday was Jasper’s wettest day since June 1 and brought this month’s total precipitation in the city to 3.61 inches, closer to the month-to-date average of 3.77 inches. For the year, Jasper has received 24.09 inches of precipitation, ahead of the year-to-date average of 23.75.

Huntingburg’s 1.5-inch rainfall total tallied at 8 a.m. today was that city’s soggiest 24-hour span since a 3-inch gusher recorded March 17.

Herald Enterprise Editor Jason Recker contributed to this report.

Contact Bill Powell at

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