In the space of three hours, Sandusky weather went to tropical storm-force winds to calm to sudden hail, ending with a rainbow arcing over downtown.
The early evening storm left dozens of trees downed and about 10,500 Ohio Edison customers without power by the time it was over.
“We had a cold front coming down from the upper Midwest, coming across the area and causing thunderstorms to develop,” said Brian Mitchell, meteorological technician for the National Weather Service in Cleveland.
Winds in the Firelands region reached 55-60 mph.
Ohio Edison area manager Joe Faga said power outages were concentrated in eastern Ottawa county — 9,000 customers as of about 9 p.m.
Downed power lines, however, blocked streets around the region.
“We have every available person out working right now,” Faga said.
Shortly after the worst winds passed, Jean Cunningham and Joanna Clinton stood at the corner of Hancock and Washington streets, trying to warn drivers of a line that sagged just south of the intersection on Hancock.
Cunningham said she thought a tornado was coming through.
“The wind from the back, it was real loud, like ‘whoosh whoosh whoosh,’ you know, like that,” she said.
Some of the worst damage in Sandusky seemed to be concentrated within a few blocks.
Neighbors gathered in the 300 block of Finch Street, gaping at the hole created when a maple tree toppled and ripped up the sidewalk along with its roots.
The tree’s upper branches blocked Knute Rieger’s white Volkswagon Beetle into the driveway and prevented any access to his neighbor’s house. The neighbors did not appear to be home.
Rieger said he watched the tree rock in the wind and then come crashing down, but he wasn’t alarmed.
“I told my wife, ‘There it goes,’” he said. “I’m not worried about it, though. I’ve got renters insurance and car insurance.”
Helen Lyons and Juanita Crothers said they were at the waterfront when they saw the early lightning and decided to head back to Crothers’ house. Their route took them along Finch Street.
They had just pulled into the driveway and were standing on Crothers’ porch when the lightning struck the tree and “lifted it right up,” Lyons said.
“We were lucky,” she added.
Less than a block away, on Milan Street, Betty Marshall surveyed the tree lying on top of her garage and tried to be positive.
“The tree was eventually going to have to come down, and there it is, on my garage,” she said.
Assistant News Editor Annie Zelm contributed to this report.