April 24th, 2024

Tornadoes leave a trail of destruction in central US and kill at least 3 in Ohio

By Joshua Bickel, The Associated Press on March 15, 2024.

LAKEVIEW, Ohio (AP) – Severe storms with probable tornadoes tore through several central U.S. states, damaging homes and businesses and killing at least three people, with more bodies likely to be discovered, authorities said.

Thursday night’s storms left trails of destruction and injuries or deaths in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Arkansas. Tornadoes were also suspected in Illinois and Missouri.

As the extent of the destruction came into focus Friday, it appeared the worst hit was the Indian Lake area in Ohio’s Logan County, northwest of Columbus. At least three people died there, and Sheriff Randy Dodds told NBC’s “Today” show that cadaver dogs would be brought in to help find more.

“I do anticipate finding additional deceased persons, unfortunately, today,” Dodds said.

The suspected tornado devastated the villages of Lakeview and Russells Point, county spokesperson Sheri Timmers said. An RV park was damaged, Timmers said, and there were likely “lots of injuries.”

Amber Fagan, president of the Indian Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, said Lakeview was “completely demolished,” with homes, campgrounds and a laundromat shredded by the storm.

“There’s places burning,” she said. “There’s power lines through people’s windows.”

Blaine Schmidt, 34, was inside his house in Lakeview and heard tornado sirens moments before the storm hit his house. He took shelter in his bathtub, using the shower curtain to protect him from broken glass along with his roommate, Greg McDougle, 60.

“I’m lucky to be alive,” Schmidt said.

About 40 people were injured by a suspected tornado in Winchester, Indiana, officials said. There were no known fatalities as of Friday morning.

“I’m shaken; it’s overwhelming,” said Bob McCoy, mayor of the town of 4,700 about 70 miles (110 kilometers) northeast of Indianapolis. “I heard what sounded like a train, and then I started hearing sirens.”

He and his wife were hunkered in a closet during the twister, which hit around 8 p.m.

“I’ve never heard that sound before; I don’t want to hear it again,” McCoy said.

The Winchester storm damaged a Walmart store and a Taco Bell restaurant, Randolph County Sheriff Art Moystner told FOX59/CBS4. Travel throughout the county is restricted to emergency management workers, he said.

West of Winchester, emergency management officials said initial assessments suggested as many as half the structures in the town of Selma, population 750, were damaged by a possible tornado. Only minor injuries were reported, the Delaware County Emergency Management Agency said in a news release.

“Severe weather has impacted Hoosiers all across the state, and we have emergency response personnel in the impacted areas,” Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb posted on Facebook Thursday night.

The Winchester school district was closed Friday, according to a Facebook post. A high school in Winchester had electricity and was open for people who “need somewhere warm and dry.”

Another suspected tornado damaged homes and toppled trees in Huron County in northern Ohio, officials said, but no deaths or injuries were reported.

Storms also damaged homes and trailers in the Ohio River communities of Hanover and Lamb in Indiana.

Sgt. Stephen Wheeles of the Indiana State Police said a suspected tornado struck Jefferson County, on the Ohio River north of Louisville, Kentucky, damaging homes and downing trees and power lines.

He posted photos on X showing one home with its roof torn off and another missing roof shingles, as well as an image of a baseball-sized hailstone.

In Kentucky, Trimble County Emergency Management Director Andrew Stark told the Courier Journal of Louisville that the storms damaged at least 50 structures, including homes.

There was significant damage in the town of Milton, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said in a statement, with potentially over 100 structures damaged.

In Arkansas, a suspected tornado struck the retirement community of Hot Springs Village, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) southwest of Little Rock, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Erik Green.

“It’s pretty clear cut that a tornado did hit Hot Springs Village,” Green said, and assessment teams will go to the area Friday to confirm the twister.

Baseball-sized hail also fell and some buildings were destroyed, but there were no reports of fatalities or injuries, Green said.

There were unconfirmed reports of tornadoes in Jefferson County, Missouri, and Monroe County, Illinois, but no immediate reports of damage. Large pieces of hail also was reported in parts of the St. Louis area Thursday afternoon.

____ Associated Press journalists around the country contributed to this report, including Lisa Baumann, Sarah Brumfield, Rick Callahan, Stefanie Dazio, Kathy McCormack, Ken Miller and Patrick Orsagos.

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