Saturday, May 26, 2018
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Thunderstorms delay repair work on downtown Toledo cables

Northwest Ohio escapes serious weather-related damage


Bolts of lightning fill the sky as severe storms move through the Toledo area about midnight Wednesday.

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VAN WERT, Ohio -- The National Weather Service has confirmed that a weak tornado touched down in Van Wert County late Wednesday night during severe thunderstorms, and continues to investigate storm damage in Henry County.

An EF0 tornado -- the lowest strength rating -- with 80-mph winds touched down in Willshire at 11:27 p.m. and left a destructive trail about 0.2 mile long and 80 yards wide, starting at Green and Williams streets and continuing three blocks to State Rt. 49, the weather service office in North Webster, Ind., announced.

A witness told meteorologists today he saw the twister descend in his yard and snap off two large trees before continuing down a neighborhood street. Several homes sustained major roof and window damage and a free-standing garage was rolled off its cinder-block foundation, the weather service said.

A separate investigative team was sent to the Hamler, Ohio area to investigate damage to trees and barns there during the same round of storms that raked northwest Ohio and, to a lesser degree, southeast Michigan late Wednesday into early today.

The only injury reported so far during the storm was to a mobile-home occupant near North Creek, Ohio, in Putnam County, suffered when the trailer was overturned by wind.

Two more electrical cables near Summit and Cherry streets failed during strong thunderstorms overnight, but power has been rerouted around them and permanent repairs will wait until after Toledo Edison crews make other storm-related repairs elsewhere in the area, officials said today.

City crews had left lane closings in place overnight with the expectation that crews would return to the intersection, which was closed for 14 hours Wednesday after an initial cable failure caused a fire and explosions that popped several manhole covers into the air.

But after The Blade inquired about the repairs' status, city and Edison officials discussed the situation and have decided to reopen all lanes at the intersection, leaving the utility to set up its own work zones later on when its crews return to the area.

Chris Eck, a Toledo Edison spokesman, said that at their peak, storm-related outages affected 3,000 Toledo Edison customers. At midday today, he said that number was down to about 860, mostly in the Defiance area.

Most should have their power back on by this evening, although a few cases where storm winds felled multiple poles could take until Friday to fix, he said.

The Henry County Sheriff's office reported multiple houses and barns damaged by winds as the squall line passed through overnight -- mainly in the general area of Hamler, Ohio -- but no injuries.

Although strong winds also were reported in Ottawa County, deputies there reported no severe weather-related damage, nor any tornado sightings even though weather radar indicated a possible tornado about 12:45 a.m. near Clay Center, about six miles north of Elmore, that was moving northeast at 60 mph.

In Lucas County, tornado sirens were activated about 12:15 a.m. and a warning remained in effect until about 1 a.m., but by mid-morning the sheriff's office had received no reports of tornado sightings or significant wind damage.

Other law enforcement agencies in Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan did not report severe storm damage or injuries.

About 1.4 inches of rain fell at Toledo Express Airport between 10 p.m. Wednesday and 3 a.m. Thursday, according to AccuWeather, a private weather forecaster in State College, Pa.

By noon in Toledo, sunny skies had broken through clouds that predominated earlier in the day. The National Weather Service office in Cleveland said the afternoon would be partly sunny in the Toledo area, with dry weather expected to persist until Saturday afternoon at the soonest.

A flood watch in Erie County has been discontinued, but the National Weather Service continued an advisory about potentially dangerous rip currents along the Lake Erie shoreline, with waves between three and five feet. Rip currents are a threat to pull swimmers off shore into deep water rapidly.

Mr. Eck of Toledo Edison said the cable failures at the Summit-Cherry intersection are not particularly unusual, but that when a wire or transformer fails underground, it can have a more dramatic impact than if the same thing happened on a pole.

"It's not that it's more violent, but it's in a confined space," he explained.

Toledo's downtown power system has enough redundancy in it that such failures typically have minimal impacts on customers' power, Mr. Eck said.

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