Tornadoes, violent storms roll through region

Todd Bower hurried his customers and employees into a rear office at Hall's Garden Gate Farm Market as tornado sirens sounded in the distance. He turned and rushed to the front window of the business at 1430 W. McPherson Highway in Clyde just in time to see a tornado looming over the Clyde-Findlay Area Credit Union.
Sandusky Register Staff
May 12, 2010

 

Todd Bower hurried his customers and employees into a rear office at Hall's Garden Gate Farm Market as tornado sirens sounded in the distance.

He turned and rushed to the front window of the business at 1430 W. McPherson Highway in Clyde just in time to see a tornado looming over the Clyde-Findlay Area Credit Union.

"You could see it swirling and going up and down," Bower said. "It only lasted a split second."

A moment was all it took for the storm to nearly tear off a window cover to Bower's new ice cream trailer and scatter potted plants into the air.

The farm market was just one building hit with storm damage in Sandusky County during a tornado outbreak Tuesday evening. The National Weather Service in Cleveland is still working to confirm tornado touchdowns in the county, but witnesses saw at least three tornadoes between Fremont and Clyde.

The Firelands region, at the very least, experienced several funnel clouds, downed trees and wind speeds that reached 45-50 mph, meteorologist Frank Kieltyka said.

A tornado warning was also in effect until 7:30 p.m. in Erie and Huron counties and northeastern Seneca County, although officials in those areas reported little or no damage.

One of the tornadoes moved over Bellevue, Monroeville and headed toward Norwalk and Milan but did not appear to cause problems there, Huron County Sheriff Dane Howard said.

Bower said the twister that churned past his business stayed 5 to 10 feet off the ground, but it spanned several dozen feet.

"It came out from nowhere," he said. "There was nothing on the (weather radar) screen."

About an hour after the storm, Bower and his staff had cleaned up most of the damage, righting plants and binding the dented window cover on the ice cream trailer.

"We're OK," he said. "We'll be open tomorrow with a few minor adjustments."

 

Early signs

Clyde resident Dorthy Bliss was driving on County Road 236, about five minutes from her home, when she spotted a funnel cloud and pulled over to take video with her cell phone.

Because of her name, she's heard "Wizard of Oz" jokes her entire life. But Tuesday evening was the closest she'd ever come to a tornado.

"It was just an ominous-looking cloud, but as calm as can be," she said.

Bliss said the funnel passed over Clyde like a dark, heavy cloud but didn't appear to cause damage in her immediate area.

"Thank goodness it sounds like nobody was hurt," she said just before reports of a second tornado surfaced. "There wasn't much damage."

As she spoke, just before 7 p.m., she and her husband Jeff watched a downpour from their living room window. Just outside her house, she heard another round of sirens.

 

Path of destruction

Cody Brunthaver lounged on his sofa in a log-cabin style farmhouse on rural County Road 198 when the wind picked up and tore his front door from its frame.

Brunthaver rushed to the window in time to see a tornado barrel past the house before suddenly dissipating near a tree line about 50 yards from the house.

"I saw it and it was gone," he said a short time later as he stood in his rain-soaked driveway.

Branches were strewn across the lawn and a newly built deck lay wrecked by a mangled above-ground swimming pool. The twister's path could be traced through a tangle of broken branches and uprooted trees on the property.

Brunthaver said the house, where he and his father live, had just been built.

"It's not even a year old," he said, surveying the torn shingles on the roof.

 

Lifted up

Angie Shondell breathed a sigh of relief after finding her dog and cat alive after the storms passed through.

That discovery made it somehow OK to find her home 4 feet from where it should have been settled on its foundation.

Shondell said she got a call from a friend whose relative saw a tornado blast into her house, lift the yellow and brown trailer and setting it down 4 feet away.

The news was horrifying, but Shondell couldn't leave work to check on her home. A nurse at a senior living center in Clyde, she had to stay and make sure the residents were safely taken to interior rooms. The 7-months-pregnant, soon-to-be mother worried about her pets, about the new TV, about the baby clothes that waited for her son. The trailer, which belongs to her mother, had been home to her and her husband for more than five years.

Two hours after Shondell got the call, she pulled into her driveway to see her home sitting at an uncomfortable lean, the front window shattered.

She found her pets shaken, but alive and the television unbroken. She said she couldn't get into her bedroom to survey the damage because a toppled dresser blocked the way.

"Tonight we're going to stay at my mom's house," she said. "We're all safe, so the important stuff is fine."