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
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
Doug Wensink, 17, who had planned to graduate on Sunday, said
the valedictorian lived in a home on a street blocked by fallen
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
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.