Monday, April 03, 2006

When Nature gets angry

Tonight, an atmospheric explosion occured directly above my workplace. Looking at the radar a couple hours ahead of time, it was obvious we were going to have some fun later on, but what happened was unlike anything I have ever experienced.

My newspaper's office is huge. It's basically four buildings in one, and my desk is in the middle of the second floor. Around 9:45 or so, it started raining hard it could be heard hitting the roof three floors up. The TV's were talking about tornado warnings and dangerous conditions. Around this time was when a concert on The Circle with thousands of people released. Not a good situation.

Before I get to the next point, I should describe the windows. They are double-paned with blinds in between the panes. Anyway, all of a sudden, in the office there was this great pressure and all the outer pane windows on the far southside of the office just collapsed onto the sidewalk below. It sounded like if someone were to drop a bunch of tiles. On all the other windows I could see on the west side, the blinds were moving up and down. No one really knew what happened at first, until someone came back from the southside talking about broken windows.

After the storm settled down and we got past first deadline, a few of us went outside to check out the damage. It was unreal. The street was littered with glass and building materals. And not only were many, many windows on my building broken, but this was what we saw on the skyscraper next door...

(Photo by Mike Fender)

The windows of about seven to 10 floors of the Regions Bank building were blown out. The full damage to the building is only going to be known when daylight hits today.

Once we went back inside, there were reports of strange things inside the office. A couple guys and I walked around. On the fourth floor, we saw water pouring out of the ceiling and into a giant trash can in the publisher's office. And then, on the fifth floor, was the strangest thing I've ever seen. You see that giant piece of metal lying next to the Jeep?

(Photo by Matt Detrich)

Well, one of those metal beams impaled the outer facade and was sticking straight out of a wall on the fifth floor. It was amazing. The outside wall is brick. It obviously was blown with enough velocity to go through the brick facade and through the wall. It wasn't even bent or scratched. I mean, I've heard that pieces of straw can impale a tree in a really bad storm, but this was something I never imagined I would see. What was funny was that along the wall, there are framed pictures of newspaper fronts. This giant hunk of metal went through the wall six inches below one of the frames.

So what caused all this to happen? This story gives some more detail. It says...

Shards of glass and metal, plus overturned garbage bins, littered streets near Monument Circle in the wake of the possible tornado at about 9:30 p.m.

"I saw the tornado on the ground right there," said Ian Money, Jeffersonville, as he stood in the parking lot at the corner of New York and Delaware streets, near the Regions Bank Tower. "I saw it and started freaking out."

The high winds blew out several upper-floor windows and caused other damage at the Regions Bank building.

Barbara Branic, group president for Regions Bank, said that as of 11:30 p.m., officials were still working to figure out what happened.

"We have our security people working the building and the police to determine the extent of the damage," Branic said. "We're just trying to find out information."
...

The storm also damaged The Indianapolis Star's building at the corner of Pennsylvania and New York streets.

Though damage estimates weren't immediately available, several windows were shattered, and a metal beam pierced the wall in the hallway on the building's fifth floor.


Where Ian Money says he saw the tornado is the corner where we stood looking at the damage. I think we were all pretty lucky tonight. Nature is a funny thing.

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