Tornado damage prompts closure of downtown Mooresville

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MOORESVILLE, Ind. — Police have closed the center of downtown Mooresville to the public in the wake of last Wednesday’s tornado that damaged several downtown businesses.

Mooresville Police Chief, Kevin Julian, explained damage from Wednesday night’s EF-1 left several buildings unstable, creating a potentially unsafe environment. A post on the department’s Facebook page said, “all it would take is a gust of wind and parts of the damaged buildings could fall.”

Julian points out there were no injuries reported after the mid-week storm, and he wants to keep it that way.  

“We’re keeping anybody that’s either sightseeing or just wanting to take pictures, they really need to avoid the area,” Julian said. “If you’re not a business owner or you’re not somebody helping with construction or cleanup, you need to avoid the area.”

Four buses, provided by Mooresville Consolidated School Corporation are now positioned to block the four entrances into the heart of downtown. The intersection of Main and Indiana is now closed for one block in all four directions.

“It’s a bigger barrier, they’ve got reflective arrows to tell you which way to go,” Julian said. “A lot better than just using cones and our our regular stanchion barricades.”

Tornado damage and the downtown closure are putting greater strain on downtown Mooresville businesses that have been struggling to weather the COVI-19 crisis. Some downtown restaurants that have been relying on carryout orders are now having to move their pickup locations outside the restricted area. Some of them are using the nearby town hall parking lot to get orders to customers.

Owners of Nosh Dessert Parlour say business at their bakery has dropped by a third since Governor Holcomb issued a statewide stay-at-home order. Call-in carryout orders have always been part of their business model. However, since the tornado and downtown restriction, customers can no longer walk into the store to pick up their orders.

“On Easter, we were excited to have all these orders, and then it was just stressful hearing that we might not be able to open and fulfill those orders,” said co-owner Jamie Weathington.

“We drove Jamie’s car up and piled in all the orders and then we went out to the parking lot and just had people pick up between a certain time,” said co-owner Lisa Norris.

“We’re going to remain open and fulfill as many orders as possible,” Weathington added. “We’ve been doing orders out of the parking lot as far as pickups.”

Across the street, the Churches in Mission food pantry announced they would be closed Monday, but they hope to be back open on Wednesday this week. Mooresville safety officials hope to shrink portions of the perimeter by half a block in the next couple days.

On the other side of Main Street, the popular Ralph and Eva’s Public House Restaurant is closed due to heavy damage from the tornado. Co-owner Brian Wiser says the restaurant had changed its business model during the pandemic in order to rely on family-style carryout orders. However, the tornado did heavy damage to the building’s roof and rear portion. Wiser said it could be months before the restaurant is open for business again.

“It’s been tough, but everyone goes through tough times and worrying about it or crying over it doesn’t change a thing,” Wiser said. “So, we’ll make it through.”

Chief Julian said at least one officer is monitoring the downtown area 24-hours a day. Violators who enter into the restricted area will first be issued a warning. If the violator does not agree to leave, they could be issued a citation. Ultimately, the violator could be arrested on charges of trespassing and violating the stay-at-home order.

Julian also said Mooresville town officials are expected to discuss a possible disaster declaration in the coming days. The downtown restrictions are expected to be in place for the next two or three weeks.

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