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Gusts topple mosque minaret; 3,400 residents lose electricity

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The fallen minaret at the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo is prepared for removal. Two vehicles were damaged when it fell.

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High winds following a thunderstorm yesterday afternoon knocked the top off a tower at a mosque in Perrysburg Township and felled two utility poles - one in Springfield Township and the other in Perrysburg - causing more than 3,000 people to lose power.

The thunderstorm quickly moved through southeast Michigan and northwest Ohio from about 1 to 2 p.m. dropping less than a half an inch of rain, according to the National Weather Service office in Cleveland.

"The storms themselves actually looked pretty weak," Meteorologist Mike Dutter said. "A lot of the winds were actually behind the storms."

Winds of about 5 mph to 10 mph before and during the storm grew to an average in the low 20s with gusts of more than 40 mph once the storm moved through.

At 2 p.m., wind gusts at Toledo Metcalf Field in Lake Township were measured at 44 mph, while they peaked at 36 mph at Toledo Express Airport.

"The rain-cooled air behind the area of thunderstorms caused the localized strong winds over the Toledo area," Mr. Dutter said. "Cool air is denser than warm air, and by default it has to fall, [which] caused the stronger winds."

Those high winds knocked the steel-reinforced, cone-shaped cap off of the south minaret at the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo in Perrysburg Township, hurtling it 135 feet to the ground about 2 p.m. and damaging a full-size GMC van and a Ford Taurus in the parking lot. No one was hurt.

Workers from Rudolph Libbe Inc. used a crane to hoist the damaged minaret section onto a flatbed truck and remove it from the premises.

The mosque, prominently located at the I-75/I-475 interchange, suffered a similar mishap in October, 1996, when wind gusts registering 68 mph at Toledo Express Airport knocked the top off the north minaret. No one was injured when that steel section fell in the middle of the night. It was replaced in July, 1997, at a cost of about $30,000, with most of the expenses covered by insurance, mosque officials said.

Two Toledo Edison utility poles and their attached wires were felled by the strong winds - one in the 7000 block of Airport Highway in Springfield Township and the other on State Rt. 25 near Fort Meigs Cemetery in Perrysburg.

About 3,400 customers were without power at the peak of the outage - about 2 p.m. yesterday, utility spokesman Reggie Strauss said. The greatest number of those affected were in the Perrysburg-Holland area, he added.

By 6:30 p.m., less than 100 people were still in the dark.

High winds knocked down additional trees and tree limbs in Lucas and Wood counties, causing some property damage, but no serious injuries were reported.

Another air disturbance is expected to move through the area overnight causing additional showers and thunderstorms this morning and late afternoon, Mr. Dutter said. High temperatures are predicted in the mid-70s with lows in the high 50s tonight.

Staff writers David Yonke and Joe Vardon contributed to this report.

Contact Meghan Gilbert at:

mgilbert@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.

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