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Two waves of storms slammed northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan late Saturday and early Sunday, spawning at least two tornadoes, killing seven people, including a child, and canceling two high school graduations.
One of the people who was killed was Ted Kranz, 46, of Millbury, the father of Katie Kranz, the high school valedictorian at Lake High School. The school was heavily damaged during the storms and had to postpone its graduation from Sunday.
“They don't make families any better than the Kranzes. The parents are terrific, the kids are terrific, it's a loss to our school family and to our community because Ted was an absolutely outstanding man who was devoted to his family, supported our community, supported our schools,” said Jim Witt, Lake superintendent. “He'll be missed.”
The seven confirmed deaths were related to what was an 8-mile path of destruction in Wood and neighboring Ottawa County. At least 30 other people were injured in northwest Ohio.
Several of the deaths happened in Millbury, a town of some 1,200 about 10 miles southeast of Toledo. In addition to Mr. Kranz, authorities have identified four other people killed in Lake Township as:
Bailey Bowman, 21, of Walbridge, who was picked up and tossed by the tornado as she, a male companion, and her small child were trying to take refuge at the Lake Township police station;
Hayden Walters, 4, and his mother, Mary Walters, also Millbury residents. The boy was killed during the tornado and Mrs. Walters died later at a Toledo hospital.
Kathleen Hammitt, a Wauseon woman in her 50s, who was struck by airborne debris while driving on State Rt. 795.
Authorities said Mr. Kranz reportedly stepped outside of his home during the storm and was struck when part of the house fell on him.
The names of the two other people who have died from injuries were not available.
Gov. Ted Strickland toured the area of destruction at Lake High School and remarked upon the fact that had the tornado hit Sunday afternoon there could have been hundreds of lives lost as its graduation was planned for inside the school's field house.
"That auditorium was totally destroyed," Gov. Strickland said at the site. "It's a traumatic situation. You try to find a positive. The positive is the kids weren't here. The building can be replaced. And the students could not have been replaced."
The governor said 50 homes were destroyed and 50 more were damaged.
"It's a very traumatic occurrence here that has happened. The fact is that it happened quickly. It was obviously powerful. Most people had a chance to have warning, thankfully, and that's why even with all this destruction the loss of lives was held to a minimum."
Tornado touchdowns were confirmed for 11:30 p.m. Saturday in Wood County's Lake Township and 2:17 a.m. Sunday in Dundee in Monroe County, Mich.
Donna Baker, of Northwood, was in Millbury visiting her mother, Edith Smith, on Cherry Street when the tornado sirens sounded. Because that house has no basement, they fled to a neighbor's across the street, and heard the stereotypical tornado noise just as they got to the front door.
"We heard a freight train coming, and we knew it was a tornado," she said. "It skipped over our four houses. We were in the living room. We didn't get a chance to go down to the basement."
Mike Abair, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Cleveland, said a team was on its way to the Toledo area Sunday morning to assess the storm damage and determine what involved tornadoes and what was caused by straight-line winds.
The storms erupted late Saturday along a cold front dividing warm, humid air over Ohio with cooler, dryer air over Michigan, Mr. Abair said. The front stretched from Lake Erie across northwest Ohio and northern Indiana into Illinois, and a low-pressure storm center formed along it.
"As it tracked through the area, it intensified pretty quickly," he said. The storm contained pronounced wind shears — strong winds blowing in different directions at different altitudes — that were conducive to tornado development.
A state of emergency has been declared in Monroe County and the county Emergency Operations Center has been activated. U.S. 23 ramps at M-50 in Dundee are closed, and westbound M-50 is barricaded at Dixon Road.
Monroe County authorities also reported minor damage at the Fermi 2 nuclear power station in Frenchtown Township.
Wind damaged an exterior wall at the plant, causing the reactor to shut down automatically.
No injuries were reported in that incident, but one worker was injured during subsequent efforts to restore utility power to the plant. That worker, not identified by authorities, was sent to a hospital for treatment of non life-threatening injuries.
Those evacuated after tornado damage to the Splash Universe park near U.S. 23 and Cabela's have since been allowed to retrieve belongings. Ten people were transported from Dundee and vicinity to area hospitals for treatment of minor injuries.
Dundee Schools Superintendent Bruce Nelson said Sunday's commencement was canceled because of power outages. He also said there may not be school on Monday. A new commencement date has not been set.
A help line of 734-529-2277 has been set up for those needing assistance in the Dundee area.
Lake Township experienced significant damage, tearing open homes and littering streets and properties with tree limbs and downed wires.
Tim Krugh, president of the Lake Local Schools board of education, declared Lake High School to be completely destroyed, while the adjoining middle and elementary schools sustained damage from airborne debris.
"I don't think there's anything salvageable from here over," he said Sunday morning while sweeping his hand across from the high school's border with the middle school.
District administrators expect to pick a location early this week to reschedule, need a space suitable for 115-120 graduates, said Mr. Witt, Lake's superintendent of schools.
Mr. Krugh said Owens Community College appeared to be the most likely location.
"It's very important for our kids to graduate with the proper kind of commencement," Mr. Witt said. "I want them to walk up and receive their diplomas. I want the kids who are giving speeches to give their speeches. I want it to be as normal as possible."
Mr. Krugh said Rudolph-Libbe, a major building contractor based in the township, was surveying the damage. Replacing the school, he said, could take two to three years.
The storm's only obvious silver lining, the board president said, was that having to replace the high school would give Lake a modern facility. The current school was built in 1953, with an addition completed in 1985.
Eight school buses were overturned by the storm, and a township police car and fire command vehicle tossed by the twister came to rest on the school grounds.
The fire vehicle reportedly was driven by a fire department volunteer who came across five people in a car on State Rt. 795 seeking emergency shelter from the storm. He escorted them to safety in a downstairs corridor at the high school shortly before the tornado hit.
Lake Township authorities were riding in a helicopter Sunday morning surveying the damage. Three homes were demolished in Millbury and about a dozen were damaged in Lake Township.
The municipal building in Lake Township also was damaged, authorities.
A woman who lives on Collins Road off Pemberville Road near Millbury was taken to Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center after her house was moved about 15 feet during the storm.
Beverly Hicks was listed in fair condition Sunday morning.
Bob Deal said his sister doesn't have a basement and was inside her home when it was picked up and moved during the storm.
Tornado warnings were issued overnight in Lucas, northern Wood, Ottawa and northern Monroe County.
By 10:30 p.m. Saturday severe thunderstorms with rotations capable of spawning tornadoes roared eastward through the region. A second wave of the storm came through a few hours later.
Toledo Edison reported about 4,000 customers lost power throughout northwest Ohio. Crews from Ohio Edison came to the area Sunday morning to assist with restoration. By 3 p.m. Sunday power had been restored to all but about 1,700 customers in the Lake Township and Millbury areas, according to a media representative.
Detroit Edison on Sunday reported 28,000 of its 2.1 million customers experienced outages, about 15,000 in Monroe County, 1,400 of which were in the Dundee area. Consumers Power in Michigan reported 475 customers without electricity in southern Monroe County.
State crews shut down State Rt. 795, between Oregon Road and the Wood/Ottawa county. The detour is Oregon Road; U.S. 20; State Rt. 51. Access onto I-280 is maintained.
Oak Openings Preserve Metropark in western Lucas County is closed until further notice because of hundreds of downed trees from the overnight severe weather.
Damage to other Metroparks is still being assessed, park officials said Sunday morning.
Even in the dark, a path of destruction was visible along State Rt. 795. A metal silo lay twisted on the ground surrounded by toppled trees.
A car, a Honda, was crushed, its roof missing in a ditch along the road. Just before 1 a.m., an Ohio Highway Patrol trooper was looking the vehicle over and taking photos.
The roof was ripped apart at the Lake Township administration offices on Cummings Road.
South of State Rt. 795 at the Friendly Village Mobile Home Park, the storm ripped apart some residences. At least one mobile home was on its side. Residents loaded their belongings in vehicles as they prepared to find haven elsewhere.
"It sounded just like a train," said Bob Powell, 53. He had no power and with a second wave of storms bearing down, he intended to leave for the night. "It's scary."
A man named Tom walked down the street at the mobile home park, asking people if they could drive him to safety because he just had open-heart surgery.
The aftermath brought out the curious and the concerned. Around Lake High School, authorities tried to clear away onlookers because of a natural gas leak on the property.
Amanda Nuckols, a Lake senior, was there with her younger sisters Natalie and Dana.
"Considering I'm supposed to be here [later Sunday], I wanted to see what had happened," Amanda said.
In Ottawa County, sheriff's deputies reported six houses "totally wiped out" and eight to 10 others with damage in the hamlet of Martin and along Trowbridge Road in Allen Township. There were no immediate reports of injuries.
In Fulton County, a Swancreek Township woman suffered cuts on her foot and shoulder when the storm destroyed a home at 1520 County Road 7 between County Roads A and B, Fulton County authorities said early Sunday morning. The injured woman was struck by flying debris as she, two children, and a friend fled to a neighbor's house before the storm reduced the other residence to rubble, authorities said.
Numerous homes were damaged in the same rural residential area, the Sheriff Darrell Merillat.
At County Roads C and 3, several trees were strewn across the roads, Chief Deputy Roy Miller said. The area also was littered with metal roofing that had been ripped from barns and other structures.
Nearby in Lucas County, damage was reported in Providence Township.
Sheriff Merillat said he was seeking assistance from deputies in Henry, Wood, and Williams counties to help prevent looting in hard-hit areas and to ensure safety near downed power lines and other hazards.
In nearby Delta, no damage was reported, Mayor Dan Miller said.
However, Delta Police Lt. Rick Sluder said he was south of the village when the storm hit.
"It was so black you couldn't see [anything]," Lieutenant Sluder said.
The last comparable storm in Fulton County struck north of Pettisville in the mid-1990s.
In Henry County, the Liberty Center Fire Department was called to assist Fulton County at a structure fire near State Rt. 109 and Fulton County Road A, about 11 p.m.
Tornado sirens first sounded across northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan after 10 p.m. as thunderstorms with strong rotations moved from Williams and Hillsdale counties to Fulton, Henry, Lucas, and Wood counties.
Sirens could be heard across Lucas County about 10:30 p.m. Sirens sounded again about 11:05 p.m. and again before 3 a.m.
Toledo police reported deep water covering roads as the storms brought heavy rain.