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Last updated: Sat. Jun. 30, 2012 - 06:43 am EDT

Around 80,000 hit by power outages after Fort Wayne storm

I&M warns some might be without electricity for prolonged period

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Around 80,000 customers of Indiana Michigan Power either suffered power outages or remained without electricity, hours after a powerful storm rolled through the Fort Wayne area.

According to a news release from I&M, those without power might have to do without for an extended period, as well, with the release stating: "Due to the large area affected by the storm and the severity of damage, those affected by the storm should prepare for the possibility of a prolonged restoration process."

A severe thunderstorm watch continues through 7 p.m. for Allen, Huntington, Whitley, Noble, Wells and Adams counties.

I&M would work to assess the damage before sending crews to fix power lines, I&M community relations director Sarah Bodner said, adding that many people should expect to be without power for at least a day.

"People should prepare for a prolonged outage," she said. "Power's not coming back on tonight."

As vendors were setting up Friday afternoon for the weekly Historic Main Street Farmers Market, their eyes were on the furiously darkening sky.

"That's it," said one woman setting up as she immediately started to pull down her tent.

Within moments, Main Street was covered in darkness as dirt flew in every direction and trees snapped. A black power line hung over West Main Street just east of the Carole Lombard Bridge. Fort Wayne Police officers were reporting down trees on streets including Clinton Street and Scott Road south of Illinois Road. Carroll east of Johnson and Carroll north of Johnson was also blocked by a down tree.

Downtown, people scrambled indoors to get away from flying dust and debris, and powerful gusts tore large plates of sheet metal from the side of the Anthony Wayne Building, which is under renovation.

"The wind was pretty much ripping and roaring through downtown," said Michael Barranda, a lawyer who works in the 1st Source Banking Center at 200 E. Main St.

"I looked out my blinds and saw pieces of sheet metal flying off the Anthony Wayne Building two at a time," he said. "There were a bunch of us huddled together in the office hoping nobody got hurt."

Witnesses said the high winds tore down at least one billboard on Illinois Road and felled countless trees, blocking streets in many Fort Wayne neighborhoods. Traffic was at a near-standstill on Hillegas Road and Spy Run Avenue shortly after the storm ripped through town, other witnesses reported on Twitter.

Two left-hand lanes of Spy Run near Tennessee Avenue were blocked by downed trees earlier this afternoon. Every traffic signal on Hillegas from West Coliseum Boulevard south to West State Boulevard was knocked offline.

Interstate 69 was closed at the 99 mile marker just north of the General Motors Fort Wayne Assembly plant on the city's southwest end but had reopened by about 4:30 p.m.

The National Weather Service reported wind speeds of 63 mph with gusts up to 91 mph at 3:05 p.m. The weather-radio transmitter at Fort Wayne International Airport was knocked off the air at about the same time the storm came through.

According to weather service precipitation maps, between a third of an inch and half an inch of rain fell during the brief but powerful storm.

Temperature dropped from 91 degrees at 2 p.m. to 68 degrees at 4 p.m., according to the weather service.

Wind was so powerful that some people said their cars were almost uncontrollable in the wind. In restaurants and stores around the city, people huddled indoors as the storm rolled through.

Many of Fort Wayne's radio stations were knocked off the air by the storm.

If you've taken any storm photos you'd like to share, you can post them at www.facebook.com/thenewssentinel, or email them to us at metro@news-sentinel.com.

metro@news-sentinel.com


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