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On This Day: The 1/29/2008 Severe Weather Event

Significant severe weather in Central Indiana in JANUARY!? Yes, the black square in W Central Indiana is a report of a 100 mph wind gust! The red dot to the right of that is a tornado report in Speedway. (Source: NOAA/National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center)

Hello Cardinal Country!! Today’s dreary weather isn’t the greatest way to start our week out, but there are hundreds of miles of distance separating today’s conditions from what we saw 16 years ago today!! A robust cold front of a strengthening low-pressure system ran into a March-like airmass and produced a mess of windy & wet conditions, an impressive (for Indiana in January) severe weather outbreak, then a snowy, blustery finish with temperatures crashing from the lower 50s into the teens!


The cold front & associated storm activity moved into Indiana after 5 pm with the peak of it happening in Central Indiana specifically around & after 7 pm. The blue dots on the map at the top of this page show where wind gusts at or higher than 58 mph & wind damage occurred. Strong south-southwesterly breezes were blowing all day at Indianapolis & Muncie (Delaware Co. Regional Airport/Johnson Field), commonly gusting around 30-40 mph, but gusts above 50 to near 60 mph were seen at both sites between 8-9 PM as the line (as shown in the embedded YouTube video) while gusts even stronger than that (70 mph!) caused the National Weather Service to issue a blanket Severe Thunderstorm Warning from Madison County down to Jackson & Jennings Counties. (Data via the Iowa Environmental Mesonet from Muncie & Indy throughout that whole day are visible here: Indianapolis International Airport / Muncie – Delaware Co. Regional Airport). Semis were toppled in Elwood on State Route 37 at 7:52 PM & in Boston (not in Massachusetts, but in Wayne County), 10 railcars were toppled by the ferocious winds at 8:45 PM.

At 6:07 & 7:20 PM, two rotating severe thunderstorms hit Posey County & Marion County, respectively. The first of the two (Posey County) laid down an EF-2 tornado in Barrett, which was on the ground for 7 miles and was 100 yards wide (about the size of a football field). The tornado killed two people & crossed a state road in the area (SR-165) before dissipating. Moving forward to the north into Speedway, an EF-1 tornado developed near a hotel & conference center in the western Indy suburb. The path was thankfully brief for this tornado, only tracking 1/10 of a mile, and was 50 yards wide with winds estimated at 105 mph. Winds around that strength were experienced in Avon and surrounding areas where houses experienced some significant damage. (SPC Event Summary). Regarding the Speedway tornado, Ball State’s own Amber Hardwick was in high school at the time, and recalled the out-of-the-ordinary weather experience:

“I remember this! I was a junior at Speedway HS and at a home basketball game! Lights were flickering in the gym… I remember thinking, ‘A tornado warning in January?!'” (Facebook – Meteorologist Amber Hardwick)

In all, this event is on brand for the significant types of weather swings that can occur even in the winter months here in Indiana & a reminder that there isn’t necessarily a complete “offseason” for severe weather for the state as well. Although it’s quite grey and dismal outside, at least we’re not expecting any weather like this event today. With things comparatively far calmer, enjoy the day!

– Cardinal Weather Service Forecaster Ryan Hill-

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