MILLBURY, Ohio — Tornadoes and thunderstorms swept through the U.S. Midwest overnight, destroying dozens of homes and upending school buses and police cars in one miles-long (kilometres-long) trail of destruction in Ohio, and ripping off siding on a nuclear plant in Michigan. At least five people died in Ohio, including a child, authorities said.
Rescue officials in northwest Ohio were still searching through homes Sunday and couldn’t say whether anyone else was missing, Lake Township Fire Chief Todd Walters said. Police Chief Mark Hummer flew over the damaged area and said at least 50 homes were destroyed and another 50 severely damaged, as well as six commercial buildings. He estimated a 7-mile (11-kilometre) path of destruction about 100 yards (90 metres) wide. The storm that hit around 11 p.m. Saturday fell over an area of farm fields and light industry, narrowly missing the heavily populated suburbs on the southern edge of Toledo.
“It’s a war zone,” Hummer said. “It’s pretty disheartening.”
Hummer said that among those killed were a person outside the police department and a motorist. He said a young child and two other victims were from nearby Millbury, a bedroom community of roughly 1,200 about 10 miles (16 kilometres) southeast of Toledo. The National Weather Service had confirmed Sunday afternoon that a Toledo-area tornado was part of the storm, said meteorologist Marty Mullen of the service’s Cleveland office.
A township police and emergency medical services building looked to be a total loss. The storm ripped off most of the building’s back half, tossing a car into where the building once stood. At least four of the township’s police vehicles were destroyed.
Hummer was talking to a police dispatcher by phone when the storm hit.
“She started saying, ’The building is shaking,’ and then another dispatcher came on and said the roof just blew off,” he said.
The storm knocked out emergency services for a short time, and all the emergency dispatchers had to be moved to a nearby town.
“When the people who are supposed to help you are victims of the storm, it does take you a minute to catch your breath,” Hummer said.
Damage stretched from Illinois toward Pennsylvania and north into Michigan, and more wind, scattered rain and cooler temperatures were expected Sunday.
In southeastern Michigan, severe storms and high winds ripped siding off a building at the Fermi 2 nuclear plant, causing it to shut down automatically, said Dan Smith, the public information officer for Monroe County. Investigators were inspecting the nuclear plant on the shore of Lake Erie on Sunday morning, and the plant was expected to go back into operation, Smith said.
About 35,000 people were without power but it wasn’t clear whether that was directly related to the nuclear plant’s shutdown or because of damage to power lines in the area, he said.
Eleven people with minor injuries were taken to hospitals from Dundee, Michigan, where the weather service was looking into reports of a tornado touching down. More than a dozen people were injured in Dwight, Illinois, where about 40 mobile homes and 10 other homes were destroyed, Illinois Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Patti Thompson said, and multiple tornadoes were reported in the state.
The storms left a trail of damaged homes in northern Indiana and a tornado sighting was reported, but no one was injured.
Lake High School was also among the hardest hit buildings. Dozens of windows were broken at the school, and the roof and a back wall were ripped off a gymnasium, hours before the graduation ceremony was scheduled to take place there. Two buses were tossed on their sides and another was thrown about 50 yards (45 metres).
“I don’t think many people care we aren’t graduating today,” student Tess Steedman said Sunday morning as she held onto her boyfriend’s arm.
She said it’s easy to forget the disappointment when hearing about other damage.
“You hear about friends who have lost their houses,” she said.