Editorial: Whiteland still a ‘tough town’ 1 year after tornado

Sunday marks the first anniversary of one of the most devastating disasters to affect Johnson County in recent memory.

Late in the evening on March 31, 2023, an EF-3 tornado touched down southwest of Whiteland. The twister moved northwest into the town, carving a path of widespread destruction in the town’s core, damaging homes and businesses. As it made its way northeast out of town, it significantly damaged a warehouse at Mohr Industrial Park before dissipating near Interstate 65.

When all was said and done, millions of dollars of damage was left in the tornado’s wake. Hundreds of homes and businesses were damaged. Luckily no one was seriously injured or killed.

In the disaster’s aftermath, people from both in and outside the community came together to support the town and its residents.

Online fundraisers were quickly formed. Volunteers showed up in the days after to help the community clean up.

Days after the twister, the community held a “Fundraiser for Whiteland” at Bailey & Wood. A long-term recovery group was also formed.

One year later, nearly all the damage has been cleaned up. But the scars from the twister remain.

Many of the damaged homes have been repaired. Those that were severely damaged in some areas have been demolished and are either being rebuilt or could be eventually.

The fire department, whose building was damaged by the tornado, is operating out of a trailer while their building is repaired. The town’s street department and wastewater plant were also damaged, repairs having since been made. The Clark Pleasant Library is open and operating. Mohr’s damaged warehouse has also been rebuilt.

Insurance issues also remain ongoing, with residents voicing their complaints during a community forum on March 18. These complaints included inadequate payouts by insurance companies, a constant change of claim adjusters and drones sent in lieu of personnel to assess property damage.

One thing is clear on the first anniversary of the tornado — the recovery is far from over. But the town and its residents will come back stronger as the process continues.

As Whiteland Police Chief Rick Shipp said in the days after the tornado, “We’re a tough town, we’re a small town.”

Yes, Whiteland you are. Eventually, this will all be a distant memory.

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