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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
From left, Jose Jancetic, Baleigh Haynes and Ashley Pratt carry away a fallen branch at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.

Severe storms power through area; 2 dead

Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
A city employee works on a traffic signal at Goshen and Washington Center roads disabled by Tuesday’s storm.

A brief but strong line of storms that battered northern Indiana early Tuesday killed two people when trees fell on their homes.

Most of the damage was from wind gusts up to 70 mph or more, but one small tornado was reported near LaGrange.

Amid the chaos, trees throughout the area were uprooted, snapped or twisted.

One of those uprooted trees fell on a mobile home on Wooster Road in Kosciusko County about 1:15 a.m. and killed a teenage boy.

Daniel Holbrook, 14, died when a large tree fell on the front of the trailer where he was awake in a bedroom, according to Kosciusko County Coroner Michael Wilson.

“There was no reaction time,” Wilson said.

He said Holbrook died from restricted asphyxia as a result of a traumatic injury.

Another person in the room with him suffered minor injuries, according to the Winona Lake Police Department. The department said two additional people in the center of the trailer were not injured.

In LaGrange County, 64-year-old Larry T. Davisson was also killed when a large tree fell on his house on Big Long Lake, according to Deputy Coroner Bruce Coney. The man’s wife escaped the home without injury.

When the storms arrived about 1 a.m., they brought wind gusts of 60 to 70 miles per hour and some indication of rotation, according to the National Weather Service.

“On the leading edge of the storm, we were seeing a lot of little circulations,” said Nick Greenawalt, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Syracuse.

Some tornado warnings were issued in the area based on radar indications that there could be enough rotation to cause a funnel cloud.

By the end of Tuesday, the National Weather Service said some damage near LaGrange was consistent with an EF-1 tornado with a wind speed peak of 95 mph, but most damage in the area was caused by straight-line winds.

Allen County Department of Homeland Security Director Bernard Beier said Allen County was spared much of the more serious damage the storm brought, with the exception of numerous downed electrical wires.

The outages continued into the morning commute, affecting several busy intersections in Fort Wayne.

As of 9 p.m. Tuesday, Indiana Michigan Power reported 674 customers were still without power in Allen County. A total of 74,000 I&M customers in northern Indiana lost power, the utility said.

At the peak of Northeastern REMC’s outages, there were about 1,100 customers without power, while Kosciusko County REMC reported that 3,000 people were still without power Tuesday afternoon.

The National Weather Service reported serious building damage in LaGrange County, where a partial roof and wall collapse occurred at Parkside Elementary School.

In Noble County, there were more than a dozen reports of homes with minor roof damage and one home with significant damage.

Greenawalt said there was also a report of a semi blown over on U.S. 30.