close
close

20 years later: Tornado passes within 6 miles of 2004 Indy 500 – Indianapolis News | Indiana Weather | Indiana Traffic

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – May is a month in Indiana that is no stranger to severe weather.

Twenty years ago, on May 30, 2004, the timing and location of the severe weather was instrumental in making it an unforgettable day.

It was the 88th running of the Indianapolis 500. There was also a Pacers home playoff game against the Pistons that night.

That year, the Indy 500 started late due to morning rain and would once again be delayed shortly after the race began with more rain. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway track would dry out until supercells developed in Indiana in the afternoon. One of them approached the Indy metropolitan area at night and had the capacity to produce a tornado.

Radar image from WISH-TV on air as former meteorologist Steve Bray from May 30, 2004.

A tornado warning would shorten the Indy 500 by 20 laps, as heavy rain wasn’t too far from the track either.

Tom Carnegie, the ring announcer, was telling the crowd, “Marion County, Marion County, tornado warning, get out of the stands now.”

Pacers fans also had to seek shelter at Conseco Fieldhouse, which is now Gainbridge Fieldhouse, before the playoff game. The F2 tornado avoided the center and passed south of the track, but caused extensive damage in the metropolitan area with additional tornadoes in central Indiana.

tornado paths

An F2 tornado with winds of 113 to 157 mph started near Harding Street around I-465 and ended in Hancock County. The tornado was on the ground just 6 miles south of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and 4 miles south of downtown.

In total, 15 tornadoes touched down in central Indiana and eight more across the state. The old Fujita scale was used in 2004 (replaced in 2007 by the improved Fujita scale).