Five tornadoes plowed through six counties in northwest Ohio on Sunday, sparing lives but leveling a church, homes, and businesses, and brushing near part of Lake Township ravaged by a much stronger twister in 2010.
The National Weather Service’s confirmation on Monday of the tornadoes — which in some cases brought winds in excess of 100 mph — didn’t surprise Sandy Moore, who said she was locking her front door when she heard what sounded like a train ramming into her Lake Township garage. She ended up on the ground in her living room.
“All hell broke loose,” Mrs. Moore said. “It sounded like the garage exploded, it flipped me back like a vacuum, and you could hear the house cracking and ripping apart.”
The Moore family’s shed was nowhere to be seen, and their house near State Rt. 795 was damaged. Their cat went missing for six hours until they found her in the underlining of box springs where she had hidden.
Students in the Perrysburg, Oregon, and Rossford districts returned to class today after buildings were closed Monday because of power outages and other damage to the area.
The NWS confirmed that a tornado with peak winds up to 125 mph struck parts of Perrysburg and Lake townships, Northwood, and Oregon starting at 5:35 p.m. during the strong thunderstorm Sunday evening. Other tornadoes were reported in Wood County’s Jerry City, outside of Elmore in Ottawa County, near the Paulding County and Van Wert County line, and a fifth that touched down in southeast Paulding County and traveled to Cloverdale in west central Putnam County.
The preliminary report from the weather service office in Cleveland said the twister in suburban Toledo formed near Lime City Road and U.S. 20 in Perrysburg Township and reached a strength of EF-2 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale near Oregon Road and State Rt. 795, where a convenience store was damaged.
The tornado continued northeast at weaker strengths before regaining EF-2 strength in Oregon, where several houses were destroyed.
Overall, the tornado traveled 12 miles in a period of about 20 minutes before dissipating near Corduroy and Wynn roads in Oregon.
An EF-2 tornado with winds of up to 130 mph traveled about eight miles, touching down about a fourth of a mile south of the intersection of Route 66 and County Line Road in southeast Paulding County and lifting about five miles northeast of Cloverdale in west central Putnam County.
Just a few minutes before, an EF-1 tornado was confirmed touching down just south of Elm Sugar and Doner roads in Van Wert County and lifting just south of the Paulding County/Van Wert County lines near the intersection of Converse Roselm and Kidner roads. That storm reportedly produced winds of up to 100 mph and traveled about two miles.
The weather service also confirmed that an EF-1 tornado touched down at 5:35 p.m. and traveled east and northeast for about a mile along Jerry City Road in southern Wood County, damaging several houses. The tornado’s path began near Huffman and Jerry City roads, just east of the village of Jerry City, and ended on Cloverdale Road north of Jerry City Road, with peak winds estimated between 105 and 110 mph.
Another tornado, an EF-1, touched down near Yeasting Road and State Rt. 590 about three miles east of Elmore in Ottawa County at 6 p.m. It was on the ground for less than a mile.
Marty Thompson, a meteorologist at the Cleveland office, said the tornadoes occurred along a fast-moving line of thunderstorms that crossed northwest Ohio ahead of a strong cold front during the late afternoon and evening Sunday.
“There was a lot of wind momentum close to the ground” that made the line ripe for tornado formation, Mr. Thompson said.
As the line moved farther east, “it started to lose its punch” because there was less heating in the atmosphere after sunset, he said.
Mr. Thompson said that while the Perrysburg-Oregon tornado’s path was close to the Sundance Kid Drive-In on Navarre Avenue, where one of two outdoor movie screens was destroyed during the storm, the twister was not believed to have hit the drive-in. Damage there is likely to have been caused by straight-line wind, he said.
The Perrysburg-Oregon tornado’s path passed within a mile or two of the reported origin point of the Lake Township tornado of June 5, 2010. That much stronger twister reached EF-4, with peak wind estimated between 136 and 165 miles per hour, and was blamed for seven deaths along its eight-mile path in northern Wood and western Ottawa counties.
AEP Ohio reported that approximately 5,000 customers remain without service, down from an original 33,500. The majority of customers are in the company’s Paulding service area.
Most of Toledo Edison’s remaining 4,099 outages are in Lucas and Wood counties, said spokesman Hans Rosebrock. The city of Toledo was one of the hardest-hit areas with 1,400 homes and businesses without power. In Perrysburg, 1,200 customers remained in the dark Monday night.
Power should be restored to most customers by 11:59 p.m. today; the hardest-hit areas could be out until Wednesday evening, Mr. Rosebrock said.
Robert Zeller and his wife, Patricia, were sitting in their living room on Lallendorf Road in Oregon, watching a football game, when the house started to shake. They just happened to be inside the one room left untouched by the storm.
“We couldn’t even walk in the hallway, it was so full of debris,” Mr. Zeller said.
Part of his roof landed in his neighbor’s yard, and big chunks of a back shed were blown away. The wind toppled a 300-pound concrete statue in the front yard and yet, in a now-roofless front bedroom, milk glass vases were unscratched on wall-mounted wooden corner shelves.
“You’re never ready for something like this,” Mr. Zeller said. “You just have to make the best of it. At least we survived and no one got hurt. We just have to live with it day by day.”
Tammy and John Kreais felt the same.
Mrs. Kreais was home with her dog when the sirens started to blare, the storm radio started to chirp, and her storm-chasing son, Brett, called. “Mom, be in cover now. It’s bad,” she recalled him saying.
Just after the meteorologists on the television implored viewers to seek shelter, her television went out.
She grabbed her dog and the dog bed and hunkered down in a first-floor hallway, still on the phone with her son.
“I closed my eyes thinking, if I did, it wouldn’t be happening,” she said.
The whole thing lasted mere seconds.
Mr. Kreais had just pulled into the driveway and could only think about making a run for the door and dodging as much of the heavy rain as he could.
Lunch pail in hand, he opened the driver’s-side door, the wind ripping it from his grip. Using both hands, he forced the door closed and laid across the front seats.
“I did not see a thing,” he said.
It happened exactly how folks describe it: The sirens whirred and there it was, that loud freight-train sound was right on top of him.
He said the car shook, and it lifted off the ground more than once.
When it was over, everything was still. His car was sitting on top of roof shingles from his neighbor’s house. His entire neighborhood was covered in debris.
Damage around the area prompted three school districts to cancel Monday classes: Perrysburg, Oregon, and Rossford.
Because that area was so badly hit — one house nearby, save for the foundation, was totally blown away — students from Cardinal Stritch High School used their day off for an impromptu service day, organized by a teen who knows all too well how people like Mr. and Mrs. Kreais felt.
Austin Pratt, 17, a senior at the high school, and his family lost their home to the Lake Township tornado three years ago.
“It really meant a lot when people helped my family and helped my community,” the Pratt youth said.
After the storm Sunday, he went outside and surveyed the damage in his neighborhood. His family’s home was untouched, but others were damaged.
The teen took to Twitter and posted, “Cardinal Stritch service day?”
With school canceled, several dozen of his friends got on board. They met at the school, then went out looking for people to help.
“I cannot believe how many people showed up,” Mrs. Kreais said of the students who cleared debris from her yard while she watched from where large windows used to be.
In Perrysburg Township, the canopy at the Circle K/Marathon convenience store at State Rt. 795 and Oregon Road was toppled, while metal siding from a nearby warehouse twisted around trees and a coin-operated vacuum. Yellow insulation littered the field next door where Pizza Hut car toppers landed, but the convenience store building itself appeared largely untouched.
Brian Koenig, Circle K’s regional director, said there were 10 customers and two employees inside the store when the storm hit.
One quick-thinking employee hit the emergency gas shutoff button when the winds started to pick up, perhaps preventing an even bigger disaster, Mr. Koenig said.
No one was at the gas pumps when the canopy collapsed, Mr. Koenig said.
Oregon Superintendent of Schools Lonny Rivera said the district issued a two-hour delay Sunday night, then decided Monday morning — based on visible damage and downed-wires reports — to close schools altogether.
“We’re very blessed that no one was injured in our community,” he said. “Things can be replaced; people can’t.”
Blade staff writer Matt Thompson contributed to this report.
Contact David Patch at: email@example.com or 419-724-6094.