PENDLETON, Ind. -- Immediately after an EF-2 tornado ripped through the town of Pendleton on Memorial Day, community leaders said they were determined to host the town’s annual June Jamboree as planned from June 4 through June 8.
A week later, residents and town officials are crediting a community-wide cleanup and recovery effort with making that possible.
“The community outpouring was fantastic,” said Pendleton Town Manager Tim McClintick. “Not only the community as far as local citizens, but the communities surrounding us.”
McClintick said an army of at least 500 volunteers signed up to help clean after the tornado. Residents and people from outside Pendleton have spent the last week clearing downed trees and debris from streets and parks.
“Amazing amount of people that came in,” McClintick said. “Church groups, companies came in and volunteered their employees to volunteer with the cleanup.”
Pendleton resident Jesse Armstong said the response to the tornado damage on his street was almost immediate.
“Within an hour of hitting, people were out with chainsaws on every road,” Armstrong said. “I think we had three or four different churches coming up and down our road, helping to get stuff to the curb.”
Steve Custer says he’s not surprised by the large response by volunteers in his town, but he has been surprised at how quickly they’ve been able to make things start to feel normal again.
“Really, the community came together and got things cleaned up in pretty decent shape,” Custer said. “I know they still got a lot of work to do, but everything’s livable and that’s the main thing.”
“It’s a thousand percent better now than it was then,” said Pendleton resident Brian Kimmerling. “I mean, the park, you couldn’t hardly get through. And the community came together and even the young kids went out and helped to clean up.”
“They might have their differences, they might squabble once in a while just like a family,” he said. “But when something like this happens, they come together and they get the job done.”
Madison County Emergency Management officials said a state of emergency for the Pendleton area was allowed to expire Monday night. They say power has been restored to the entire town of Pendleton.
Bailey Kennedy works as a stylist at Headbangers The Salon in downtown Pendleton. She says the salon was without power for about 48 hours after the tornado. However, she says when she came back to work on Thursday last week, it was business as usual.
“I couldn’t even hardly tell that anything had happened,” Kennedy said. “That’s how quick they moved and how everybody just pitched in and helped.”
There is much work to be done around the town. EMA officials say roughly 500 structures in the area sustained damage on some level. 30 to 40 of those structures had major damage or were destroyed. Pendleton officials say it could take up to a year for all infrastructure and home repairs to be made.
The town of Pendleton still has a tornado recovery hotline set up at 765-221-5029. The town’s website says calls will be returned within 48 hours.
In the meantime, people around Pendleton are happy to see the June Jamboree is going on as planned. They’re counting that as a victory on the road back to normal.
“We weren’t looking for reasons why it shouldn’t happen, we were looking for opportunities to make it happen,” McClintick said. “And everybody just pitched in and here we are today.”