Tornado touches down in county


March 17-23 may be Severe Weather Awareness Week nationally, but portions of Delaware County are already aware of the impact severe weather can have after recovering from a confirmed tornado.

The BST&G Fire District, Brown Township, and the City of Sunbury notified residents on March 14 that the tornado sirens were going off and to take shelter immediately.

“Everyone stay at home,” BSTG posted on Facebook following the storm. “There are wires and trees down across the entire district. First responders are having trouble getting to calls. Stay off the roads and stay home!”

“Please exercise caution if you are in the area,” the Sunbury Police Department posted. “There are several trees and power lines down as well as multiple road closures in and around Sunbury and Galena. Stay safe and be aware of your surroundings.”

Genoa Township’s Maintenance Department helped the Village of Galena clear debris the next day while AEP worked to restore power. Galena Mayor Jeff Kinnell declared “a state of emergency in the Village due to the recent natural disaster.”

The village’s most recent post said, “If you have brush, tree limbs, tree debris from the storm, please move this to your curbs and we will work on picking it up over the next several days. Please have it bundled and stuffed. Note we cannot burn any brush.”

Big Walnut Local Schools were closed Friday due to damage and power outages.

The American Red Cross opened a shelter Friday evening at Vineyard Church Delaware County, 1011 W. Cherry St., Sunbury, with 50 cots, and food and water available for those who needed it.

Afterwards, Berkshire and Brown townships’ Facebook pages said to contact Delaware County Emergency Management to report storm damage at 740-833-2137 or 740-833-2138. “Please avoid piling debris in the ditches in front of your homes for the time being as this can potentially cause water drainage issues,” the Berkshire post said.

“A severe storm has caused damage to a number of areas in Berlin Township,” the township posted on Friday. “The Berlin Township roads crew worked until approximately 5:30 a.m. this morning to get major roads cleared of debris and are continuing their work at this time. Orange Township has reached out and their roads crew have graciously offered to help with clean up in order to expedite the process as well. Multiple major power lines are down which is the primary reason for the current roads that are closed (parts of Piatt, Cheshire, Africa). The county, electric companies, other townships, and ours are all working as swiftly and safely as possible to restore power to all residents. Our township hall and zoning office is also impacted and currently without power. Thank you for your patience and please also consider checking on your neighbors and friends to offer a helping hand where you can.”

Of the many road closures reported by the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office, most occurred in Berlin Township.

Governor Mike DeWine declared a state of emergency in Delaware County and 10 other Ohio counties on Sunday, allowing state agencies to provide supplies and services to them.

On Monday, the Delaware County Commissioners “passed a resolution declaring a state of emergency, following Thursday’s tornado,” the county posted. “This enables the county to continue responding to this event in as efficient and effective a manner as possible.”

“Buildings and other property sustained significant damage in Scioto Township, Delaware Township, the City of Delaware, Berlin Township, Berkshire Township, the Village of Galena and Trenton Township,” said a press release issued by the county. “Over the weekend, the Delaware County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management mobilized damage assessment teams. They observed damage to at least 254 homes and businesses with 25 of these sustaining major damage…”

According to the National Weather Service (NWS) office out of Wilmington, Ohio, an EF1 tornado began at 8:58 p.m. Thursday, March 14, in Delaware and ended at 9:49 p.m. in St. Louisville in Licking County. Wind speeds reached a maximum of 110 mph, with a path length of 36.3 miles and a maximum path width of 600 yards. Fortunately, there were no injuries or deaths reported.

“The survey concluded that a tornado developed across central Delaware County on the west side of U.S. Highway 23 near Sawmill Parkway initially causing minor and sporadic tree damage in the area,” the NWS report said. “As the tornado crossed U.S. Highway 23, the tornado strengthened and widened, and began causing more structural damage as it crossed the Olentangy River, and then especially so as it moved along Berlin Station Road and other areas of Berlin Township. Along this portion of the track, a number of homes sustained siding and roof damage, and numerous tree snaps and uproots were seen. Several barns were also destroyed.

“In vicinity of Olentangy Berlin High School, parts of the school campus and athletic fields were damaged, signs were bent over, and several free-standing transmission towers were felled. Among all of the damage indicators in this area, wind speeds around 110 mph were estimated as the maximum wind speed. The tornado crossed Alum Creek Reservoir and moved into neighborhoods southwest of Sunbury and west of Galena, continuing to cause widespread and significant tree damage, along with a large number of homes having windows blown out, partial roof removal, and power poles snapped.

“Damage in these areas was consistent with wind speeds from 95 to 105 mph. As the tornado moved through the Galena area, there was a complex mix of straight-line wind damage through southern parts of the town of Galena, with tornadic damage embedded across the north side of Galena. The damage field through this area is notably wide. … Along this entire stretch of the damage path, the damage is a combination of partial roof removal on some homes, barns being completely destroyed, or heavily damaged, widespread tree uproots and snaps, and power poles snapped.”

Assistant Editor Gary Budzak covers the eastern half of Delaware County and surrounding areas. He may be reached at [email protected].

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