Published: Jun 07, 2010 11:20 AM EDT
Updated: Jun 07, 2010 8:20 AM EDT

MILLBURY, Ohio (AP) - A community whose high school was

destroyed the day before graduation by a tornado that killed seven

people, including the valedictorian's father, rescheduled the

ceremony as residents sifted through houses in many cases reduced

to rubble.

The tornado was part of a line of storms that ripped through the

Midwest on Saturday night and Sunday, destroying dozens of homes

and an emergency services building in northwest Ohio.

Storms collapsed a movie-theater roof in Illinois and ripped

siding off a building at a Michigan nuclear plant, forcing a

shutdown. But the worst destruction was reserved for a

100-yard-wide, 7-mile-long strip southeast of Toledo left littered

Sunday with wrecked vehicles, splintered wood and family


"It's a war zone," Lake Township Police Chief Mark Hummer


At least 50 homes were destroyed and another 50 severely

damaged, as well as six commercial buildings. The storm fell over

an area of farm fields and light industry, narrowly missing the

heavily populated suburbs on the southern edge of Toledo.

Hummer said all residents were accounted for after

house-to-house searches.

Doug Wensink, 17, who had planned to graduate on Sunday, said

the valedictorian lived in a home on a street blocked by fallen

tree limbs.

Neighbors dug through a pile of rubble where the house once

stood. There was nothing left but the foundation, which was filled

with water and debris. A pool table floated in the middle.

Friends cried as they picked the family's belongings out of the

mud and the mangled trees. One girl emerged from the muddy water

carrying a teddy bear and a small jewelry box.

Scott Conley said he helped rescue the mother and her three

children, who had survived by hiding in the basement. He had

arrived at his parents' house across the street about 20 minutes

before the storm hit. He said his family laid in the stairwell

because they didn't have time to get to the basement.

Conley said he saw the body of the children's father in the

rubble after hours of searching. He said the man apparently ran

upstairs to get a flashlight and couldn't make it back to safety.

"You try and tell them, you know, that you're gonna find their

dad," Conley said, breaking down at the memory of the search.

"But we just couldn't."

The tornado ripped the roof and back wall off Lake High School's

gymnasium late Saturday, hours before the graduation ceremony was

supposed to begin there. The ceremony was rescheduled for Tuesday

at a Toledo community college.

The tornado turned a township police and emergency medical

services building into a mishmash of 2-by-4 framing and pink

insulation. At least six police vehicles - half the township's

fleet - were destroyed, and one car was tossed into the spot where

the building once stood.

Those killed included a person outside the police department and

a motorist, Hummer said. He said a young child and two other

victims were from Millbury, a bedroom community of roughly 1,200

about 10 miles southeast of Toledo. Hummer said two other people

died at hospitals but he did not have details.

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.

DTE Energy, which owns the nuclear plant on the shore of Lake

Erie, is still investigating the extent of the damage, and there's

no estimate when the plant will go back into operation, spokesman

Guy Cerullo said. He emphasized that the reactor itself was not

damaged, just other "plant-related equipment."

About 14,000 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, said Gregory

Williams, director of emergency managment for Monroe County.

Eleven people with minor injuries were taken to hospitals from

Dundee, Mich., where a tornado touched down with winds of about 130

mph. Tornadoes also were reported in Illinois. More than a dozen

people were injured in Dwight, where about 40 mobile homes and 10

other homes were destroyed, Illinois Emergency Management Agency

spokeswoman Patti Thompson said.

The roof of a movie theater collapsed in Elmwood, about 30 miles

west of Peoria. State Trooper Dustin Pierce said 150 to 200 people

who had been inside were evacuated to the basement and no one was


The storms left a trail of damaged homes in northern Indiana and

a tornado sighting was reported, but no one was injured. In eastern

Iowa, buildings were damaged and one person was hurt when a tornado

touched down in Maquoketa.

A cold front colliding with warm unstable air produced the

storms that struck Saturday night, said meteorologist Marty Mullen

of the National Weather Service, and that front was draped from New

England south through the mid-Atlantic region on Sunday. The storm

weakened as it headed east.

The day after the Toledo-area tornado hit, residents were

searching fields looking for anything salvageable.

The storm destroyed Ronald Johns' house and barn and flung his

cast-iron bath tub into a wheat field, but his wife managed to find

a wristwatch, still working, amid the scattered bits of their home

near Millbury.

On Saturday night, Johns looked out the window and couldn't even

see the barn directly across the road. The chimney fell through the

first floor as soon as the retired couple made it to the basement,

pinning Johns with bricks until his wife, Jan, managed to free him.

Ronald Johns, 74, said they were lucky. "We didn't get down

there five seconds too fast," he said.