Millbury: Tornados and thunderstorms that swept through the Midwest overnight killed at least four people in Ohio, sent several to hospitals, destroyed 50 homes and damaged scores more, as well a high school gymnasium where graduation was to be held Sunday.
Authorities in northwest Ohio are still searching through homes and couldn`t say whether anyone else is missing, Lake Township Fire Chief Todd Walters said. Walters flew over the damage Sunday morning and estimates the storm left an 8-mile path of destruction in a straight line over an area of farm fields and light industry. The storm that hit around 11 p.m. Saturday narrowly missed the heavily populated suburbs on the southern edge of Toledo.
A township police and emergency medical services building looked to be a total loss. The storm ripped off most of the building`s back half, tossing a car into where the building once stood, now a mishmash of 2-by-4 beams and insulation strewn about. A patrol car nearby was flattened.
All the emergency dispatchers and 911 operators had to be moved to a nearby town.
"It`s unbelievable," Walters said. "It`s just total destruction — stuff just completely flattened or gone."
No tornados had been confirmed in Ohio as of late Sunday morning, though the National Weather Service has received many reports and pictures of storm damage, said Walter Fitzgerald, a hydrometeorological technician at the service in Cleveland.
He said damage stretched into central Ohio and toward Pennsylvania. Wind, scattered rain and cooler temperatures were expected Sunday.
In central Illinois, the National Weather service confirmed reports of a tornado touching down 80 to 100 miles southwest of Chicago, meteorologist Charles Mott said. He did not have further details.
Lake High School was also among the hardest hit buildings in northwest Ohio. The field house was damaged and the cafeteria was destroyed, Superintendent Jim Witt said, and some buses were flung across the school parking lot.
Two of the buses were tossed on their sides and another was thrown about 50 yards, landing on its top near the high school`s football field, its right turn signal still blinking more than 10 hours later.
Dozens of windows were broken at the school and the roof and a back wall were ripped off a gymnasium, hours before the graduation ceremony was scheduled to take place there.
"Wow. This is bad," said Michael Wasserman, a student who drove to the school to take pictures. He was among the seniors who was going to the commencement ceremony.
"Now I`m not," he said with a shrug of his shoulders.
Tess Steedman, who had gone to see the damage shortly after the storm ended, knew she wouldn`t be graduating at the school as scheduled.
"I don`t think many people care we aren`t graduating today," she said Sunday morning as she held onto her boyfriend`s arm. "It`s more that we won`t be graduating at our school."
She said it`s easy to forget the disappointment when hearing about other damage.
"You hear about friends who have lost their houses," she said.
Carol Smith, of Toledo, whose grandson will be a senior in the fall, called the destruction "terrible."
"But praise the Lord, it could`ve been worse," she said. "At least there was no one inside."