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Quick Storms Bring Serious Damage In Northwest Indiana

A mircoburst during the storms Thursday afternoon brought down a roof in an apartment complex in Merrillville, Ind. (Credit: Natalie Cheng/CBS)

A mircoburst during the storms Thursday afternoon brought down a roof in an apartment complex in Merrillville, Ind. (Credit: Natalie Cheng/CBS)

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UPDATED 07/06/12 12:02 p.m.

MERRILLVILLE, Ind. (CBS) — Thousands of people were facing dangerous heat without power in Northwest Indiana Friday, following a round of quick and violent storms the day before.

As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, the storms on Thursday afternoon knocked out electricity to about 1,300 NIPSCO power company customers. By 7:15 a.m. Friday, that number had been reduced to 4,474 – the bulk of them in the Gary and Merrillville areas.

The damage was particularly severe at the Hickory Ridge apartment complex in Merrillville. The storm toppled a tree right onto a Jeep parked in a driveway, and left a pile of lumber strewn on the ground after the triangular roof of one of the buildings was ripped off.

The wood chunks and panels from the roof smashed cars and blowing out windows. At least five or six cars had to be dug out of the rubble.

Meanwhile, nearly 50 families were forced to leave Hickory Ridge Thursday night, as winds estimated between 75 and 90 mph left a trail of extensive damage.

Mark Bailey, a lifelong resident of the apartment complex, said he has never seen such damage.

“I just can’t imagine how it would happen that quick; I mean, we’re talking 10 minutes,” Bailey said.

Bailey had to spend the night at a hotel Thursday, as his power was out.

“Water on the floor – some of the condensation, you know, from the freezer. There’s parts of the roof that have been blown off; trees, limbs everywhere,” Bailey said.

Trees and debris left the parking lot impassable.

“This whole portion you see right here was completely blocked. You couldn’t get through,” said Christian Moore.

Moore was home alone Thursday afternoon when his window suddenly flung open.

“It went from, you could see outside to just completely white, and then it forced my window open – literally, forced the seal off it; pushed it open,” Moore said. “It started, like, whining, so I had to force it closed and hold a towel to it.”

“Oh my God, I didn’t know it was that bad until I got here,” added Moore’s mother, Lillie Tullison.

After the storm, passed through mother and son realized they lost power. They somehow got through the night in the muggy hot air, but others couldn’t bear it.

“I saw people sleeping in their cars, and sleeping on their balconies,” Tullison said.

No one was hurt by the falling debris, but one woman had to go to the hospital.

“It was getting hot, and she was turning pink,” Tullison said. “and so, I got her in the ambulance as soon as possible.”

The elderly woman got sick because of the heat.

Roofers were in the middle of rehabbing the building that lost the roof, so no one was inside.

The storms also knocked out power to about 4,700 NIPSCO customers in Northwest Indiana – a problematic situation as the temperature rockets to 103 Friday and residents are left with no air conditioning.

The winds from the storm may also be to blame for the partial collapse of a building in Melrose Park Thursday afternoon, which left two children injured.

The storms blew in around 3 p.m. Thursday, and caught many people by surprise.

First, the temperature dropped modestly as a dark, ominous cloud rolled in from the west. Rumbles of thunder and isolated drops of rain came next, followed by a steadier rain, and suddenly almost out of nowhere, it seemed dangerous to be outside.

In Lincoln Park near Belden Avenue and Lincoln Park West Thursday afternoon, the moderate rain quickly gave way to torrential downpours and bomb-like thunderclaps, as dangerous winds ripped twigs and leaves off of trees and sent them flying and whirling high through the air.

The wind from the west was so strong that the simple act of walking west down an east-west street would have been a dangerous proposition, with debris flying at breakneck speeds and gusts strong enough to blow people off course or even knock them down.

And even standing under the canopy in front of one of the condo buildings on the block, anyone caught in the storm was left looking and feeling as if he’d taken a long shower with his clothes on.

The storm was over within about 15 minutes, but some trees were ripped down in Lincoln Park. A second, lighter storm followed around 6:30 p.m.

CBS 2 Meteorologist Ed Curran says the storms Thursday were propelled by a lake breeze over Wisconsin.

There are chances for isolated thunderstorms again on Friday, but the storms have not resulted in any cooling. The forecast high on Friday is still 103 degrees.