‘You could feel the ground vibrating:’ Miami County residents describe tornado touchdown

TIPP CITY — Betty White, her granddaughter and two great-grand children were in their house Wednesday when a tall tree in their yard slammed through a garage just yards from where they were holed up in an interior bathroom.

“We’ve had high winds that took out a shed years ago, but nothing like this,” White said. “It’s an experience I don’t ever want to have again... You could feel the ground vibrating and all of a sudden we heard a loud bang.”

On Thursday, White and other homeowners and business owners in Tipp City surveyed the heavy damage their homes and business received after an EF2 tornado blew through this Miami County community.

White said she has lived in the area her entire life and built the Peters Road house in the 1970s. White lives with her granddaughter Heather Burns and Heather’s two children, Aura and Mae.

Burns said she was keeping an eye on the weather and put her kids in the bathroom just prior to the moment the storm caused debris to hit her home’s roof, causing a leak in the ceiling.

Credit: Marshall Gorby

Credit: Marshall Gorby

“I told the kids before it even happened what to expect,” she said. “I said, ‘It’s going to get really quiet then it will get really loud and the house is going to shake.’ Right after I said that is when there was a loud crack down onto the roof. It was completely silent after that.

“I’m really impressed with them,” Burns added. “They were even stronger than I was.”

Burns said the garage that was crushed under a tree housed both of her daughters’ bikes and toys and was a fun place for them to play.

“They were upset about that, but I’ve just told them everybody is okay and that’s all that matters,” Burns said. “All of this can be replaced.”

It didn’t take long for this Miami County community to pitch in with cleanup efforts Wednesday after the tornado blew through a neighborhood and an industrial area, damaging several homes and businesses.

At 955 N. Third Street, nearly the entire frontage of the SK Mold & Tool facility was torn off. Vice President Keith Kingrey said most of the damage was structural.

“Our equipment all seems fine so far. Our offices are trashed with debris, which is going to be an inconvenience to clean up, but no one got hurt, so that’s the most important thing,” he said.

Kingrey said the business has received an outpouring of support and cleanup assistance from SKM&T’s estimated 50 employees, many of whom volunteered to come in Wednesday evening to clean up.

In the immediate aftermath, a major concern was covering the exposed areas of the building with a tarp to prevent further damage until repairs can be made. Kingrey said the community stepped up in a big way to lend a hand.

“I called Steve Bruns of Bruns Construction and he had a crew here in 30 minutes or less buttoning up our building,” Kingrey said. “Tipp City’s fire, street and electric departments—the whole city staff—have been phenomenal.”

Kingrey said he expects the repair process to take at least a few weeks.

Just over 350 yards away, Repacorp Inc., located at 31 Industry Park Court, sustained substantial damage to its roof, as well as an inch and a half of flooding inside as a result of damage to the sprinkler system, according to co-owner Rick Heinl. “Everything was sopping wet,” he said.

Outside, large pieces of the roof, along with air conditioning units, were flung over 100 yards to the east.

“We look at it as we’re fortunate; it could have been so much worse,” Heinl said. “This can all be fixed.”

Heinl owns Repacorp Inc. with his wife, Lyn, and their children, Rochelle, Andy and Nick. After the facility was damaged by the tornado, the family said their employees also went above and beyond for them.

“We are family, but our employees are our family, as well, and they showed up and helped out,” Rochelle said. “This is their home and their place, too. Some days you wonder if anybody’s happy, and then last night, we had employees come out in droves. Our appreciation is unbelievable.”

Crews were on site Thursday afternoon repairing Repacorp’s roof and the Heinls say the business will be back in operation in a matter of days even as the restoration continues.

“A lot of the roof they have to tear off because it’s been lifted up,” Rick said, adding that the repairs may take up to 18 months and come with a potential price tag in the millions. “But, we’re hoping to up and operational by Tuesday.”

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