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Published: Tuesday, 7/3/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Latest round of storms downs trees, cuts power

BY MADELINE BUXTON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
A car on East Sand Road in Port Clinton was crushed by a tree limb that was brought down by a powerful storm Sunday night. A car on East Sand Road in Port Clinton was crushed by a tree limb that was brought down by a powerful storm Sunday night.
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PORT CLINTON -- When Cincinnati resident Erika Tonne came to her parents' Catawba Island Township home this week to vacation for the Fourth of July holiday, she was expecting to lounge by the pool with her husband and two young children.

But the family's week-long plans were interrupted Sunday night in a matter of about five minutes, when chunks of hail, rain, and strong winds blew threw the region, uprooting large trees in the front and back yards and downing power lines.

"It was something I'd never seen before," said Ms. Tonne of the storm that hit her parents' Northwest Catawba Road home. "I threw the kids in the bathtub -- we kept hearing crashing sounds and finally just complete dead silence."

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Severe storms moved across Ohio at about 6 p.m. Sunday, American Electric Power said, leaving about 415,000 customers in the state without power Monday. The severe weather came two days after storms barreled through central Ohio, causing substantial damage to area communities, especially those in Putnam and Hancock counties.

Areas that reported the largest numbers of power outages Monday included Findlay, Lima, Van Wert, and Ottawa, Ohio.

Ohio Edison reported Monday that about 72,000 customers in its service areas were affected by the storm and that about 8,000 remained without power as of late Monday, with most remaining outages contained to the Marion and Springfield areas.

For many who were affected by Sunday's storm, there was little they could do to prepare.

Irene Phipps was watching from her kitchen when a tree toppled in her Catawba Island yard. Irene Phipps was watching from her kitchen when a tree toppled in her Catawba Island yard.
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"My husband was out grilling when he called me out to look at the clouds," said Katie Hamann, also of Northwest Catawba Road, whose home was damaged by three trees that fell on the office, three-season room, and garage. "We just hit the bathroom in the center of the house. [The whole thing lasted] maybe five minutes by the time the sirens went off."

As crews worked to lift fallen trees with cranes Monday, Ms. Hamann said she was hoping she and her husband might be able to return to their home by the end of the day.

The American Red Cross of Northwest Ohio reported that they had sheltered as many as 300 individuals who were affected by Sunday's storms. Three shelters are open in Hicksville, Lima, and Findlay, and about 1,500 meals have been delivered across the state.

The Red Cross was planning to close the emergency shelter in Findlay at 8 a.m. today. A cooling and feeding center will be opened at noon today in the multi-purpose building of the Hancock County Humane Society on Fostoria Avenue in Findlay. The shelter will remain open from noon to 8 p.m. daily and will serve meals at 12:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.

"The greatest need for residents who have visited our shelter are meals and a cool place to spend the day," said Todd James, executive director of the Hancock County Red Cross, in a release. "So we are going to refocus our energies on providing relief from the heat during the day and meals for those without power."

Temperatures in the last week have hovered in the lower and upper 90s in the region, and even crossed the 100-degree mark in many communities Thursday.

Irene Phipps, who watched Sunday from her kitchen window as the wind uprooted a 200-year-old oak from her back yard on Northwest Catawba Road, lamented that the loss of power took away one of the only means of escape from the disaster that surrounded her house.

"With no TV, there's no place to hide," Ms. Phipps said. "I want to say I'm going to block all this out and forget about it, but without power I can't do it. I can just sit there by candlelight."

The high temperatures are not only an issue as homeowners affected by the storms attempt to stay cool, but also for workers trying to fix downed power lines. Shelly Clark, a spokesman for AEP, said the humid temperatures and the struggle to stay hydrated are the main factors slowing down crews who have been working nonstop to restore power throughout the state.

June continued Toledo's trend of being warmer than normal.

Toledo has had one daily record high temperature during the month; Thursday's 103-degree reading at Toledo Express, which marked just the second time since 1995 that Toledo's official temperature reached triple digits.

That day's 104-degree reading from The Blade building is not an official record, although Toledo temperature records were kept downtown before Toledo Express Airport opened in 1955.

Overall, 11 daily high-temperature records have been set at the airport so far this year.

June also continued the area's recent dry pattern, with 2.92 inches of rain being 0.65 inch shy of the average from 1981 through 2010. Through Saturday, 14.2 inches of rain had fallen this year at the airport, which is 2.74 inches below normal and nearly 8 inches below the 22.07 inches that fell during the first half of 2011, the wettest year on record for Toledo.

The Wood County Senior Center in Bowling Green will again be open extended hours to give older adults a break from the heat, even opening on Independence Day.

The center, 305 N. Main St., will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. today, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. The center also will be open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Lunch is available for $2 for those 60 and over from noon to 1 p.m. each day. Dinner, for $4, is offered at 5:30 p.m. Reservations are required by 2 p.m. for evening meals today, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday by calling 1-800-367-4935.

Exceptionally warm weather is forecast to persist in Toledo for the immediate future, said Brian Mitchell, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Cleveland.

Toledo's record for consecutive 90-degrees or warmer days is in play. The record of nine straight days was set just last summer.

That record will be tied if the mercury reaches 90 daily through Friday and beaten if Saturday is also a 90-plus day. As of Monday afternoon, the weather service predicts 90 or higher through Saturday, then the high 80s on Sunday.

"It probably could get out of the hotter stuff later in the week, but the trends are still keeping above-normal temperatures through the next two weeks," Mr. Mitchell said.

Toledo's normal high temperature for the first 20 days of July is 85; this is typically the hottest time of the year.

There were 10, 90-degree days in Toledo overall during June, which was two short of the record set in 1933 and matched during the sweltering June of 1988.

Staff writer David Patch contributed to this report.

Contact Madeline Buxton at: mbuxton@theblade.com or 419-724-6368.



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