MILLBURY, Ohio – A tornado unleashed a “war zone” of destruction in northwest Ohio, destroying dozens of homes and an emergency services building as a line of storms killed at least seven people and briefly threatened the Northeast on Sunday.
Storms collapsed a movie-theater roof in Illinois and ripped siding off a building at a Michigan nuclear plant, forcing a shutdown. But most of the worst was reserved for a 100-yard-wide, 7-mile-long strip southeast of Toledo.
The tornado ripped the roof and back wall off Lake High School’s gymnasium at about 11 p.m. Saturday, several hours before the graduation ceremony was supposed to begin. The school board president said one of the victims was the father of the class valedictorian.
Lake Township Police Chief Mark Hummer flew over the damaged area and said at least 50 homes were destroyed and another 50 severely damaged, as well as six commercial buildings. The storm fell over an area of farm fields and light industry, narrowly missing the heavily populated suburbs on Toledo’s southern edge.
“It’s a war zone,” Hummer said. “It’s pretty disheartening.”
Hummer said Sunday afternoon all buildings had been searched and everyone was accounted for.
The tornado turned a township police and emergency medical services building into a mishmash of 2-by-4 framing and pink insulation. Hummer was talking to a police dispatcher by phone when the storm hit.
“She started saying, ‘The building is shaking,’ and then another dispatcher came on and said, ‘The roof just blew off,’ ” he said.
The storm ripped off most of the building’s back half and wrapped part of the metal roof around a tree. At least six police vehicles – half the township’s fleet – were destroyed.
One of the victims was the father of Lake High School’s valedictorian, said Tim Krugh, president of the school district’s board.
Neighbors said the house of the valedictorian’s family was destroyed, and all that was left was a basement filled with water.
More than 30 people in the Toledo area were hospitalized. In southeastern Michigan, severe storms and high winds ripped siding off a building at the Fermi 2 nuclear plant, causing it to shut down automatically, said Dan Smith, the public information officer for Monroe County. Eleven people with minor injuries were taken to hospitals from Dundee, Mich., where a tornado touched down with winds of about 130 mph.
Tornadoes also were reported in Illinois. More than a dozen people were injured in Dwight, where about 40 mobile homes and 10 other homes were destroyed, Illinois Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Patti Thompson said.
The roof of a movie theater collapsed in Elmwood, Ill., about 30 miles west of Peoria. State Trooper Dustin Pierce said 150 to 200 people had been inside, but they had been evacuated to the basement and no one was hurt.
The storms left a trail of damaged homes in northern Indiana and two tornadoes were reported, but no one was injured. In eastern Iowa, buildings were damaged and one person was hurt when a tornado touched down in Maquoketa.