Community pitches in after 3 tornadoes; many give thanks it wasn’t worse

Darke, Miami, Clark counties all hit; no major injuries reported, but some businesses hit hard.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

For the second time in three years, many Miami Valley residents had their lives uprooted by tornadoes Wednesday, but there was a sigh of relief as the area escaped loss of life and serious injury.

Across Darke, Miami and Clark counties, residents pulled trees off roofs, governments cleaned streets and businesses took first steps toward reopening, while trying to focus on the good.

Rick and Lyn Heinl own Repacorp Inc. with their three children, Rochelle, Andy and Nick. The labeling and packaging company’s building on Industry Park Court in Tipp City was damaged Wednesday.

Rochelle Heinl said the family received an outpouring of support, as local residents immediately showed up unsolicited, asked, ‘What do you want us to do?’ and kept working until midnight.

She got emotional talking about her appreciation for both their employees and total strangers.

“With what has gone through the world with COVID, it’s brought a lot of people down, made a lot of people scared to socialize and it’s torn our world apart,” Rochelle said, fighting back tears. “Last night was one of the first times I felt whole again. It was unbelievable to see everybody come together and pitch in. The outpouring of support and helpfulness — it felt like a movie.”

The storms

The National Weather Service confirmed three official tornado touchdowns in the greater Dayton area Wednesday — an EF1 that touched down southeast of Pitsburg in southeast Darke County, an EF2 that caused the damage around Tipp City in Miami County, and an EF1 north of Springfield in Clark County.

An EF1 tornado has estimated three-second wind gusts of 86-110 mph and an EF2 tornado has three-second wind gusts of 111-135 mph, according to NWS.

Damage to huge Meijer complex

No one was hurt at the huge Tipp City Meijer distribution facility, and most of the complex was open for business Thursday, a spokesman for the grocery company said.

That’s despite a tornado causing the collapse of the the roof and large back wall on the northwest corner of one building along Kessler-Cowlesville Road, just west of I-75.

Meijer does not anticipate any noticeable disruption to stores, Meijer spokesman Frank J. Guglielmi said. The company is speaking with employees on changes that would affect their schedules.

“Our team did a great job executing our severe storm/tornado safety protocol,” Guglielmi said. “When notified of the incoming storm, the team activated a shelter in place and ran their severe weather plans. Their quick actions undoubtedly helped ensure the safety of our team members, contractors and visitors at the complex, and for that we are grateful.”

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Confusion over sirens

Jeff Busch, Miami County Communication Center director, said early Thursday that the emergency sirens did not go off immediately in Tipp City. But later Thursday afternoon, he said that appeared to be wrong.

Busch said warning sirens countywide were first activated as a group, or a “stack,” at the center at 5:49 p.m., then re-activated every 10 minutes until the warning was lifted. The center was notified at 6:01 p.m. by Tipp City police that sirens were not sounding there, so Tipp City’s were then activated separately.

“Somehow theirs (Tipp City’s) was bumped out of the stack,” Busch told county commissioners.

But later Thursday, Busch said technical checks of the system indicated the sirens did work.

A Dayton Daily News reporter who was in Tipp City near I-75 and Ohio 571 said the sirens were audible there at 5:49 p.m., before any severe weather was visible.

Other Miami County notes

** County EMA Director Joel Smith told county commissioners the Meijer emergency response plan implementation “probably saved lives” there. He said debris from Meijer was found two miles away east of Tipp City.

** Tipp City Emergency Services Chief Haller said around 20 homes in town had damage, ranging from roofs to landscaping, fencing and siding. Miami County building officials estimated 70 percent of damage was to commercial/industrial structures and 30 percent to residential. The county building department will waive inspection fees to damaged properties.

** Power was restored in the area of Meijer around 1 a.m. Thursday. Crews were working later Thursday on a feed line on Third Street between impacted buildings in another industrial area, said City Manager Tim Eggleston.

** The city will pick up any debris from residential properties if it is set at the curb, Eggleston said. “It could have far worse,” Eggleston said of the damage. “We are thankful it wasn’t worse.”

Darke County damage

Darke County Emergency Management Director Mindy Saylor said most of the impact from Wednesday night’s storm was felt in the 600 block of Schnorf-Jones Road and nearby on Ohio 49, she said.

No major injuries were reported, she said, but a vehicle that was traveling on the roadway overturned. She also said two barns that belonged to a hog farm were damaged and probably destroyed. The barns held equipment and no animals were injured, Saylor said.

She also said another barn in the area suffered roof damage.

“There were some trees and what not, sporadic, but those are our significant areas that we reported to the National Weather Service,” Saylor said.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Clark County damage

The tornado that hit Clark County passed through Springfield Country Club, two days after it hosted a U.S. Open golf qualifier. A drone video shot by club member Patrick O’Neill showed large trees toppled and branches scattered throughout the course.

Many homes in Springfield suffered damage.

Cami Linville said when her husband saw the funnel cloud headed to their Rose Garden Mobile Home Park, they tried to get out of the mobile home initially.

“The whole trailer rocked, knocked us all to the ground,” Linville said. “I watched the walls suck in and out. I watched the windows shatter all around us,” she said through tears.

She said she thought they all were OK, escaping without serious injury.

“We had to break out our back door to get out of the trailer,” she said.

Staff Writers Parker Perry and Jen Balduf, plus photographer Marshall Gorby contributed to this report.