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Published: 4/21/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

Twister uproots trees, hits homes, cuts power

24 structures in Oregon damaged

BY DAVID PATCH AND MIKE SIGOV
BLADE STAFF WRITERS
A large tree slammed into this house on Sugarbush Road after Kelli Gerke had run to the basement. Her husband, Ken, saw the tree crash onto the couch where his wife had been sitting just moments before. A large tree slammed into this house on Sugarbush Road after Kelli Gerke had run to the basement. Her husband, Ken, saw the tree crash onto the couch where his wife had been sitting just moments before.
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Kelli Gerke of Oregon was in her living room watching television in search of the weather forecast early Wednesday when she heard "a telltale freight-train sound" and rushed to the basement.

"I was so scared. I heard that sound and screamed for my husband to get to the basement. But by the time I got there it was all over," said Ms. Gerke, 42, of the 1700 block of Sugarbush Road.

What she heard were the signs of a weak tornado that the National Weather Service said was responsible for damage to homes and trees in northeast Oregon during a thunderstorm Wednesday morning.

The report from the weather service's Cleveland office estimated at between 65 mph and 85 mph the winds that damaged about 24 properties in Oregon, including "major" damage to one structure.

The twister, given the lowest, EF-0 rating on the Fujita or EF scale, touched down at 12:49 a.m. along Eagles Landing Road and traveled northeast to the intersection of James and Lagundovie roads, a path of about three-quarters of a mile.

No injuries were reported.

PHOTO GALLERY: Click to see more images of Wednesday's tornado damage.

Edison crews work on power lines along Bryan Road in Oregon that were damaged by the tornado rated at EF-0 on the Fujita scale. Winds were estimated at between 65 and 85 hours per hour. Edison crews work on power lines along Bryan Road in Oregon that were damaged by the tornado rated at EF-0 on the Fujita scale. Winds were estimated at between 65 and 85 hours per hour.
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The thunderstorm that raked the Toledo area after midnight was part of a squall line that also caused damage near Findlay. The weather service said "downburst" winds near 70 mph occurred just south of U.S. 224, near Marion Township Road 237, ripping shingles from 30 to 40 houses.

At the CSX Transportation freight-transfer terminal west of North Baltimore, meanwhile, several dozen empty freight containers were blown off railcars during the storm.

CSX spokesman Carla Groleau said the incident "briefly delayed" operations at the terminal, but no one was hurt.

Martin Thompson, a meteorologist with the NWS in Cleveland, said a "rough estimate" for how much wind it would take to overturn an empty freight container was 60 mph.

Jim Furman salvages what he can from a wind-destroyed travel trailer outside a house on Grisell Road in Oregon. On the same road, a storage building struck a house. Jim Furman salvages what he can from a wind-destroyed travel trailer outside a house on Grisell Road in Oregon. On the same road, a storage building struck a house.
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In Ottawa County, the sheriff's office reported a barn roof in the road on County Road 17. Authorities said Schau Road in Bay Township was hit the hardest in the county.

State Rt. 53 south, at the county line with Sandusky County, and Sand Road in Catawba Island Township temporarily were closed until roadways could be cleared.

In Oregon, Mrs. Gerke's husband, Ken, 43, who was up in a bedroom at the time the house was hit, had made it halfway to the basement when he saw the large tree limb come through the roof, dropping roof trusses over the living room couch, where his wife had just been sitting.

"It was scary," he said.

The couple then learned that another limb came through a wall in the bedroom and yet another crashed one of their two cars.

Oregon Fire Chief Ed Ellis stopped by the couple's house as he drove around the neighborhood assessing damage. He saw about a dozen houses that had some damage from felled trees and tree limbs -- mainly minor -- his own house included, he said.

A wind-driven tree limb is embedded in the side of a house on Sugarbush Road. Other houses suffered limb damage to roofs. A wind-driven tree limb is embedded in the side of a house on Sugarbush Road. Other houses suffered limb damage to roofs.
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Tim Wilson, 40, of the 5900 block of Grisell Road, just a couple of blocks from the Gerkes, was also outside Wednesday morning. He was looking at a side wall of his wood frame house that had a hole in it from a storage trailer that was toppled by the wind and hurled at the house.

At the time it happened, he was away, but his girlfriend, Rose Roelle, 39, and her two children, ages 14 and 16, were in the house basement.

"Everybody was in a panic. It was pretty rough," Mr. Wilson said. "Her kids were already involved in the Millbury tornado when their house was destroyed last year. They were sitting in the basement then too. So it was pretty scary for them this time."

Staff writer Taylor Dungjen contributed to this report.

Contact David Patch at: dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.



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