CRIDERSVILLE — Officials in Auglaize County were thankful no one was hurt by an exceptionally powerful storm that swept through Cridersville on Tuesday, destroying at least two homes and damaging many more.
Warning sirens blared across northwestern Ohio much of the morning as the National Weather Service issued dozens of tornado watches and warnings.
“When the sirens kept going off, we came out on the porch and we could just tell something wasn’t right. We ran inside, and thank God we did,” said Kathy Florence, who for 15 years has lived in a white, two-story home on the corner of East High and South Waverly streets.
She and her visiting mother ducked under a stairway inside the home while winds roared overhead. When they emerged about two minutes later, destruction surrounded them.
“Both garages behind are just gone. My car is smashed. The roof’s off. It’s just so sad, we’ve worked so hard on this house,” she said.
A piece of the metal garage door was wrapped like a twist-tie around a power line across the street, nearly 100 feet away. The house across Waverly Street was also destroyed.
“With what we’re seeing and the impact of debris into the homes, it is looking more like it was actually a tornado that touched down,” said Troy Anderson, Auglaize County Emergency Management Director.
An official ruling on whether the storm produced a tornado will be made later this week. A team from the National Weather Service is expected in town today. Several people reported seeing funnel clouds in the area, including Anderson.
Cridersville seemed to bear the brunt of Tuesday’s storms. The worst was centered along East High Street, which was littered with splintered wood, clothing, shingles and furniture.
Officials said it was too early for a damage estimate Tuesday afternoon.
“We have several garages that are going to be total losses,” Cridersville Fire Chief Ron Mertz said. “There’s siding blown off houses, roofs damaged. It’s going to be substantial.”
The village’s former school gymnasium was also destroyed.
The former Cridersville Elementary School had recently been demolished and was not affected by the storm, though the storm knocked down several trees in the area.
Electricity had either been knocked out or shut off to most of the village. AEP Ohio spokeswoman Shelly Clark said the company was working to restore service to as many customers as possible in the area, though as of 3 p.m. more than 1,700 were without power.
A makeshift shelter was set up at the fire station, where volunteers also served firefighters and residents East of Chicago pizza and poured McDonald’s coffee from a five-gallon server. The American Red Cross also was at the scene.
“We’re thankful to hear there have been no injuries during this storm and we’re so blessed to have the surrounding communities come to our aid,” Mayor Lorali Myers said.
Firefighters from Buckland, Uniopolis and St. Marys Township were at the scene along with Allen County’s Shawnee Township and American Township departments. Auglaize County Sheriff Al Solomon and Russ Decker, director of the Allen County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, were also monitoring the scene.
For many in the village, there seemed to be a sense of disbelief.
“I’ve worked for the village for 21 years, and this is the worst I’ve ever seen,” said Village Superintendent Danny Yoakam as he stood near a yellow skid steer waiting to begin clearing debris from East High Street.
“It’s just hard to believe, this big of a mess.”