Storms, tornadoes cut off power to tens of thousands in Ohio


Tens of thousands of Ohio residents were still without power or water Wednesday in the aftermath of strong tornadoes that spun through the Midwest.

Hospitals in the state reported that nearly 140 people were injured in the storms late Monday night, although only one person was killed as the destructive storms sent people cowering in basements, closets and bathrooms.

At least 60,000 people lacked water service in the Dayton area, where ice and water distribution centers were set up. A utility said power had been returned to some 35,000 customers Wednesday, but tens of thousands still were awaiting restoration.

More stormy weather was expected Wednesday in the region, with the chance for scattered strong storms.

The Memorial Day storms were among 53 twisters that forecasters said may have touched down across eight states stretching eastward from Idaho and Colorado.

The National Weather Service has so far confirmed eight tornadoes hit the Dayton region. They included severe-damage twisters in Celina, Beavercreek and Trotwood near Dayton.

In hard-hit Celina, site of the only Ohio fatality, Fire Chief Douglas Wolters cited alerts people received on their phones and extensive coverage by TV meteorologists ahead of the storm, giving residents a 10-minute warning.

“Everybody I talked to said they heeded the warning and went straight to the basement,” Wolters said Tuesday evening.

Southwestern Ohio hasn’t been nearly so lucky when tornadoes roared through in previous years. One of the most violent tornadoes ever recorded struck Xenia, Ohio, 15 miles east of Dayton, on April 3, 1974, killing 32 people and nearly wiping the city off the map. It was part of what meteorologists termed a Super Outbreak that spawned 148 tornadoes in 13 U.S. states and Ontario, Canada, in a 24-hour period.

Early on April 9, 1999, a powerful twister smashed into Blue Ash and Montgomery near Cincinnati, leaving four people dead and at least 100 homeless.

After Monday’s tornadoes, Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine declared a state of emergency in the three counties with the most damage.

The winds peeled away roofs — leaving homes looking like giant dollhouses — knocked houses off their foundations, toppled trees, brought down power lines and churned up so much debris that it could be seen on radar. Highway crews had to use snowplows to clear Interstate 75 near Dayton. One person was also injured in Indiana.

In Celina, 82-year-old Melvin Dale Hanna was killed when a parked car was blown into his house, authorities said.

“There’s areas that truly look like a war zone,” said Jeffrey Hazel, mayor of the town of 10,000 about 60 miles northwest of Dayton.

Our recent webinar “This is not a Drill! The weather-resilient Grid” saw experts from Navigant Research and Itron offer insights into what utilities are doing to address the increasing severity of extreme weather globally, ensuring efficient operations during freak weather. Here’s a link to the recording.

This story originally appeared on our sister-site, Electric Light & Power.