UPDATE: The new relief area is Greenwood Middle School. The location has moved from Whiteland High School.
WHITELAND, Ind. — Police say the town of Whiteland took a “direct hit” as severe weather and tornadoes swept through central Indiana late Friday night into early Saturday morning.
The Whiteland Police Department said the southern part of the town sustained significant damage. As a result, power and communication were limited.
“If you need help and can not get out via voice, please utilize the text to 911,” the department said on Twitter.
Johnson County Emergency Management confirmed a tornado touched down east of Whiteland Road. Some businesses and homes were flattened, the agency said.
Photos and videos showed overturned semi trailers and debris scattered along I-65 near Whiteland. Police and residents reported downed power lines and trees, with debris blocking local roads and making travel challenging. Police are asking people to stay home if possible.
“Please let us do our jobs safely. Do not become a part of the problem,” the department said, adding that there would be an “extended ETA” for the restoration of power.
For those in need of shelter, Whiteland High School was being opened as a place for people to get out of the elements and find help. Residents should go to door No. 4.
“Unless you’re going to the high school to seek shelter, please stay home,” police said. “There are way too many people out and about walking around. This is all still active and developing. Live power lines could be down in your backyard.”
The department said its initial sweep showed everyone had been accounted for. They were conducting a second sweep with the American Red Cross.
Johnson County Sheriff Duane Burgess urged people to stay off U.S. 31 and out of Whiteland, saying that “gawkers” were among their biggest issues right now. Some people were trapped inside their houses, although he had no injuries to report as of about 1:40 a.m. Saturday.
He said emergency responders were fighting against the dark and warned it was dangerous to walk around the area because of the amount of live wires. Burgess said public safety workers were searching areas in Whiteland. He also said the sheriff’s office had received multiple reports of damage from Morgantown east through the county.
“We, unfortunately, Whiteland took a pretty serious hit,” Burgess said. “We don’t know how much damage we have until daylight, but it’s pretty significant what we’ve seen so far just in the dark.”
Burgess said some residents were trapped inside their homes and needed help getting out. As for 3:20 a.m. Saturday, he said no one had been transported to the hospital.
“We have homes and buildings collapsed–they’ve been hit by the tornado,” Burgess said. “We have a lot of power lines down, major power lines along U.S. 31 south of Whiteland Road. Those roadways are closed.”
Multiple agencies from Johnson, Marion and Bartholomew county are assisting in the effort.
Burgess said non-emergency reports can be called into the Johnson County Public Safety Communications Center at 317-346-6336.