Severe storm hits county

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A severe spring storm struck Switzerland County on Sunday night, leaving portions of the county without electricity and water — and others cleaning up from downed trees.

Pam Hutchinson of the Patriot Water Company said that the utility was without electricity for approximately 13 hours following the storm; and that lightning had hit the utility’s big pump located on Patriot Hill.

Without electricity, Patriot Water could not pump water from its wells, and once the storage tanks ran dry, they couldn’t refill because there was no power.

The lack of electricity meant that customers in East Enterprise, Center Square, and Fairview areas were without water.

Pam Hutchinson said that Patriot Water got assistance from the Aberdeen-Pate Water Company in getting water so that the storage tanks could be refilled back to capacity, and that the system is now running normally.

“We appreciate everyone’s cooperation, and hope that they will be understanding about the situation,” Pam Hutchinson said. “We do have backup generators planned in our upcoming improvement project.”

The lack of water meant that the Switzerland County School Corporation had a problem to address, and shortly after students arrived on Monday, they were back on buses and on their way home.

Superintendent Tracy Caddell said that without water to the building, there was no was to operate the school in a normal and healthy way, because food couldn’t be prepared and restrooms couldn’t be operated. The school did have electricity, but no water.

In the interest of the children, the school was closed at 9 a.m. Students in the system’s other three buildings remained in school.

On Tuesday, there was enough electrical power at the Patriot Water Company pumps for the school to operate it’s toilets. School officials had bottled water taken to Switzerland County Elementary for students and staff to drink; and also to use in cooking.

A boil advisory was implemented by Patriot Water for all of its customers who were without water, but that advisory was lifted on Wednesday morning. Those customers who did not lose water service were not under the boil advisory.

As of Wednesday, Switzerland County Elementary was operating normally, and was hosting its kindergarten registration for next year.

“The water looks okay and the pressure seems alright,” school secretary Marilyn Devers said. “There wasn’t a breakage in the line or anything where something from the soil could have gotten into the water, so everything seems to be just fine.”

Barry Lauber of Southeastern Indiana REMC said that about 4,000 customers were affected by the storm and lost power, and that includes seven counties in Southeastern Indiana.

He said that most of the damage that REMC workers encountered was in Switzerland County, with 15-20 poles being broken off, trees being uprooted, and trailers overturned.

By 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Barry Lauber said that power had been restored to all affected areas.

Near Markland, Teresa Lyons said that she heard a report that the storm was going to hit Vevay in four minutes, so she calculated that if the storm was traveling at 55 miles per hour, it would be hitting her home in about 12 minutes.

“I went back to turn on a flood light that we have on the back of the house that faces the river,” Teresa Lyons said. “I thought it was hail coming through the screens but I really don’t know what it was, because it all happened so quickly.”

Teresa Lyons said her husband Steve grabbed her and told her to get in the bath tub because the storm was hitting and there was no time to get to their basement.

“It sounded like a freight train going right over the top of you,” Teresa Lyons said. “We didn’t see anything, but all I remember is that I heard the same sound in 1974.”

That’s when tornadoes ravaged this area, and at that time Teresa Lyons was living in Bennington with her parents. Was it a tornado, or just powerful straight line winds on Sunday night?

“The insurance many said that you can tell what damage was caused by straight line winds,” Teresa Lyons said. “But that you could also see where something spiraled down in there, so I’m not sure what happened.”

The storm toppled many of the trees in the Lyons’ backyard that runs down to the river.

“We were lucky,” Teresa Lyons said. “I think the trees really took the brunt of it. We couldn’t really tell anything that night, but the next morning we realized just how lucky we were.”