Joe Guth, 45, raised his two children on the same block of Troy Street where he spent his own childhood. But in 30 seconds, a violent tornado ripped apart his home. “Every minute, it sinks in more and more. It’s like a movie.”
Photo: Laura A. Bischoff
Photo: Laura A. Bischoff

Tornadoes 1 month later: ‘It still seems unbelievable’

“It still seems unbelievable to this day. It’s just sad,” said Guth, who lived on the same block of Troy Street where he spent his childhood. “I am mentally exhausted. It’s so overwhelming.”

Guth and his girlfriend Karen and their two children, Kyle and Kaylee, salvaged what they could from the two-story brick house but he estimates they lost about $10,000 worth of belongings and one of their cars was totaled. The second car is damaged but driveable.

Guth said his daughter Kaylee lost the most — memorabilia, music, elementary school art projects — since the roof above her second-story bedroom was ripped open.

At least 15 tornadoes, ranging in strength from EF0 to EF4, were confirmed in Montgomery, Auglaize, Darke, Greene and Mercer counties. A Celina man was the lone death.

Like others, Guth thought he was going to be killed. When he emerged from his “man cave” in the detached garage, he found mass destruction, high tension wires wrapped around his chimney, limbs and debris strewn everywhere and the sound of natural gas lines leaking.

Related: ‘I thought I was done. I thought I was going to get swept away.’

Now, his kids are staying with friends while Joe and Karen are staying with other family in town. Guth said he’d like to stay in Old North Dayton but he realizes rental properties are decimated.

If he can’t stay in his old neighborhood, Guth is thinking of moving out of the region, maybe “somewhere out west.”

But he spent his entire 45 years on the same block of Troy Street — in all, four generations of Guths have lived there. His grandfather bought a one-story frame house there in 1935. His mother bought the brick one next door. Guth and his girlfriend stayed and raised their kids there.

Guth admits that given how deep his roots are, moving “out west” is probably more fantasy than reality.

Although his family has lived on the block for 84 years, the houses are now owned by a rental property company. Guth expects to see bulldozers plow over the hulking remains of the houses in the coming weeks.

Guth said he is grateful he was able to save family photos that had been stored in the basement and that the family’s seven cats all survived.

After the Memorial Day tornadoes, Guth guarded what was left for days. He posted a sign in his driveway warning looters that they’d be shot – and he hasn’t had any trouble like others have seen.

“That’s the lowest of the low. Simple as that,” he said of people willing to steal from folks so down on their luck right now.

The house isn’t safe anymore. Heavy rains poured through the open roof, inflicting more damage.

Aside from looking for a new place to live, Guth is unemployed. The opportunity to do side jobs from his “man cave” garage is now gone.

Guth lost his job last August, forcing him to cash out his 401(k) retirement account and take a hefty tax hit. He hasn’t had luck finding new employment. As a result, the tornado hit his family at a particularly bad time.

The $500 gift card from the American Red Cross for hotel lodging went fast, he said. Aside from that, Guth said he hasn’t benefited from the post-tornado assistance programs.

“I’ll just take it day by day,” he said.

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