Tornado causes major damage to Meijer facility, other Tipp City sites

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

A tornado caused major damage to a Meijer Distribution Center and several other sites early Wednesday evening in Miami County.

Other damage was reported in Darke and Clark counties, as the storm system rolled across western Ohio between 5 and 7 p.m. The National Weather Service in Wilmington confirmed that a tornado touched down approximately between 5:55 and 6:15 p.m. near West Milton and Tipp City, and that a storm survey conducted Thursday would provide additional details.

At the Meijer facility off South County Road 25A in Tipp City, the roof and back wall on the northeast corner of the building collapsed.

“I did see a funnel cloud in the area,” said Tipp City police Sgt. Corey Rismiller. “I did see debris coming off Meijer’s roof.”

The damage locations appeared to be “pretty much industrial facilities” with Meijer taking the biggest hit, said Joel Smith, Miami County Emergency Management Agency director.

Fifty or more people were working in the Meijer Distribution building at the time the storm hit, but there were no reported injuries.

“Meijer heeded tornado warnings and got people to their emergency location,” Smith said. “They were in their safe place so nobody was hurt.”

The tornado hit the Distribution Center before moving east across I-75 and into the Industry Park area. Structural and roof damage initially was reported to buildings at RepaCorp, Hi Tech Industrial Services and S&K Tool, Smith said.

Crews worked to cover the front of SK Mold & Tool with a large tarp after nearly the entire frontage of the building was pulled away in the storm.

North Third Street, from North Drive past Industrial Park Court, will remain closed at least overnight while crews work to remove debris from the road, according to Tipp City police.

The Tipp City Fire Department, with assistance from surrounding agencies, was working at structures before turning them over to the owners for clean-up and repairs.

Tim Eggleston, city manager in Tipp City, was driving the community later Wednesday evening checking on damage.

The traffic signal at County Road 25A and Tipp Cowlesville Road was working again later in the evening, while others including those at the Interstate 75 interchange nearby, were not.

Police from Piqua and Troy responded to help with traffic control and Vandalia fire crews came to help at the Meijer property, Eggleston said.

Eggleston said the hopes were that the city electrical department would get the city power outages resolved later Wednesday evening. Only one city power pole was broken by the tornado, along Kessler-Cowlesville Road, he said.

AES, which also provides power in the area, had vehicles in town, Eggleston said.

Eggleston said there was some residential roof damage and trees downed, but there were no reports of catastrophic damage to residential structures as of 8:30 p.m.

“It could have far worse,” Eggleston said of the damage. “We are thankful it wasn’t worse.”

From the Meijer facility

“I just thought it was a big storm … heavy rains and stuff” said Meijer employee Cheryln Spealman of Dayton.

During the storm, she said the lights went on and off a few times in the huge facility.

“After that we heard a big boom and then a bunch of debris started blowing around,” Spealman said.

It was not until workers went outside that they noticed part of the building had collapsed.

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

Spealman said she does not work in the area that sustained the significant damage, but said she is thankful it appears no one was hurt.

Employees were sent home for the rest of their shift, and Spealman said she has no idea whether workers will be able to return to work Thursday.

Houses behind the Meijer warehouse also were damaged. Police closed a stretch of Kessler-Cowlesville Road between South County Road 25A and Peters Road, just after 6 p.m., allowing only local traffic and first responders through. Damage to trees, power lines and some homes was visible in that area.

“Everything is to the northern part of the city, is where all the damage is,” Rismiller said.

As of mid-evening, there were no reports of injuries associated with the storms, according to the Miami County Sheriff’s Office.

Tipp City officials were asking people to stay off the roads in the areas of damage, including County Road 25A and Kessler-Cowlesville Road near the Meijer Distribution Center.

In a Facebook posting, the city also asked people to check on neighbors and to stay safe.

Images of the aftermath

The damage inspired flashbacks to some of the enduring images from the 2019 Memorial Day tornadoes.

** Tree tops were cut off in several areas, and some remaining trees looked scarred.

** Large pieces of steel from a nearby business were strewn throughout. One piece was wrapped tightly around a tree trunk.

** Pieces of insulation also littered the area, with some hanging from tree branches and others stuck in fences. Near an outdoor sitting area at Repacorp Inc., white strings of insulation were stretched across bushes and a damaged canopy, making the scene look as though it had been decorated for Halloween.

The potential tornado was first reported shortly after 5 p.m. Wednesday in Darke County near the Ohio-Indiana line. The Clark County damage happened near 7 p.m., nearly two hours and more than 60 miles from where the storm initially was reported.