September 17, 2010

Tornado Hits Athens County, Ohio

NOTE: For links to storm information, scroll down to the bottom of this post.

Update: Information on status of recovery and places to contact to help or receive help. WOUB link.

Subtitle of this post: "If dogs could have a look on their face that says 'I told you so!'"

Here's a personal timeline at our home here in Athens, Ohio, which is also the home of Lucky Press LLC (publisher) and Janice Phelps LLC (design). Four tornadoes touched down in Athens County last night, and 2 in nearby Meigs County.

7:30 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 15, 2010:
I'm on the couch with the laptop writing and checking FB ). I hear thunder in the distance, know that Jackie our Chihuahua will not want to go outside in it, so decide to get them up early to get out before the rain hits.

7:30-11:00: Tyler and Jackie spend all morning huddled with me on the couch while I work on websites, work on illustration sketches, work on novel, check Facebook. We have a direct look out huge window to our beautiful woods and everything is gray, rainy, and wet. I love it--great day for creative work.

11:00-5:30: working on computer

5:30 - 6:30 p.m. I am on the phone with a publisher, oblivious to weather.

6:30 p.m. We turn the news on and hear reports of storm cells and a "hook" design in the system that looks dangerous. The area between Lancaster and Athens is in danger of tornadoes. I call our elderly friend, David, in nearby Logan (home of the beautiful Hocking Hills) and tell him to stay down on his first floor (he has no TV).

Now, here's where the canine wisdom comes in. Tyler (9-year-old Pekingnese) wants to sit right up against me, behind me on the kitchen chair.
Jackie (7-year-old Chihuahua) is hiding under the table, taking a break from wondering why I haven't drawn her Autumn Season illustration yet. Farley just wants our food. After dinner (or more accurately, "supper"), Mark goes off for his ONE HOUR on the treadmill (are you impressed, because I certainly am!) and I wonder how, once again , I can sit on the couch while my husband works so valiently to stay fit.

I pull out exercise mat from its demanding place near the TV, turn on on-demand
Parenthood episodes I never saw when televised, and lie on the floor attempting pathetic "crunches." (Cathy, I hope you are reading this.)

Tyler comes and sits right next to me as thunder rolls in. Jackie comes over and sits next to me under the Eames footstool that reminds Mark of the nice chair he no longer has and what about their changes to the headrest anyway? Farley takes Tyler's spot on the couch, positioning herself as close to me as possible, but submitting to other dogs' desire to be closest to Mommy.

Suddenly, a really LOUD clap of thunder. It's approximately 7:10 p.m. Tyler jumps on top of my prone body. If this was a cartoon, there'd be no jumping, no lifting off with the back legs, front legs extended... it would be drawn with a determined dog lifting off the floor, all 4 paws at the same time, and landing just so on my stomach.

I hug him and say, "It's okay. It's just thunder. Everything's okay." I use this as an excuse to put away exercise mat and dogs join me on the couch to watch TV. I had to do this, they needed me.

Our night progresses with a video from NetFlix (Friday night lights and, by the way, the DVD was defective and we missed the end of the show), an hour of reading (Mark, a book on "cosmology" and me a book I bought for 30 cents at Athens County Library sale about a midwestern guy, 60, who is a commercial pilot facing retirement)....

Then! As Mark is reading a book on his iPad, he checks the Web before turning out the light and gets a notice that a tornado touched down in Athens County! The high school is damaged as is the building where the local newspaper, The Messenger, is housed. Time of touch-down: "about 7 pm" -- Tyler was right!

From our other newspaper, Athens News: bleachers in stadium down (twisted), press box went through concession stand, cars in parking lot smashed, mobile homes nearby flipped, injuries....Two 1,000 lb air conditioners were ripped off the high school roof and thrown to the ground. A giant stone sign outside the school (which required a crane when it was installed) was "crushed."

Students and parents had gathered for two soccer games between rivals Alexander and Athens. All students from both teams were accounted for, but can you imagine the panic of parents? There was also a volleyball game going on and the roof was blown off the building where they were playing. 7,500 +/- Athens County residents do not have electrical power this morning.

UPDATE: I drove up to The Plains (about 4 miles away from our home) to check on a friend's niece's home (thankfully OK). Lots of trees down, some roof damage to homes, the high school - you couldn't get close to it, lots of emergency vehicles there - lots of cherry pickers and many many guys with chain saws. So many beautiful big trees down. Metal carports, etc. mangled. No electricity (this update is at 1:45 p.m. Friday). Mark said the electricity is out at Kroger in Athens. Electric service is always a problem in our area during bad weather (storms, snow, or sometimes for no apparent reason -- same with water). I've gotten used to it.

PHOTOS: I've posted photos of The Plains here on my Facebook page, with access to all.

Here is a link to "reader-submitted" photos at The Athens Messenger.

Other tornadoes I remember:

In the late '60s, it was July 4th in Canfield, Ohio and we were at the fairgrounds for fireworks. I was in junior high school then and had crawled under a fence to sit on the field as close to the fireworks as possible, with a friend. We looked up in the sky and saw what appeared to be a tornado. Everyone in the stands immediately ran for cover inside the structure, down where the concessions were sold (and where I later had my first job, selling photos of demolition car drivers!). I can still remember being crowded and up against a wall in the back of the structure, and the press of the crowd. Ugh. Now, all these years later, I heard from my mom the concern she felt as a mom, not knowing where I was amidst those hundreds of people, and how relieved she was when my older sister found me.

In the early '70s, Xenia, Ohio was severely damaged by a tornado. Today, it is a lovely small town and an inspiration to other towns hit by disaster.

The Super Outbreak is the largest tornado outbreak on record for a single 24-hour period. From April 3 to April 4, 1974, there were 148 tornadoes confirmed in 13 US states, including Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and New York; and the Canadian province of Ontario. It extensively damaged approximately 900 square miles (1,440 square kilometers) along a total combined path length of 2,600 miles (4,160 km).[1]

The Super Outbreak of tornadoes of 3–4 April 1974 remains the most outstanding
severe convective weather episode of record in the continental United States. The outbreak far surpassed previous and succeeding events in severity, longevity
and extent. source: Wikipedia

Also see "Super Tornado Outbreak of 1974" Farmer's Almanac.

May 31, 1985. I lived in FL, but my parents lived in Brookfield, Ohio during the 1985 United States-Canadian Tornado Outbreak. A Pennsylvania-Ohio outbreak of 43 tornadoes swept through (including 13 in Ontario), one touching down only a mile from their home. There were 88 deaths. A girl I went to school with just had time to grab her baby and get to the basement door before her home flew away.

March 21, 1985: A tornado hit Venice, Florida, a town 1/2 hour south of where I lived at in the 1980s and '90s. A grocery store was damaged and a neighborhood lost several homes. Worse, a woman and man whose RV was parked in a store parking lot were separated forever when the woman was pulled from the RV by the sucking force of the storm and died.
(Killed 2, injured 47)

There was also a Super Tuesday Tornado Outbreak in 2008 in the Southern US and lower Ohio Valley.

Now, it is "the morning after" the tornado. Some folks are in a shelter without a home. Some are wondering what will go on at their school on Monday. Some are counting their blessings. Time to get dressed and go love my hometown.


Latest outtages: AEP and South Central Power
Details of storm damage

Athens Messenger
Athens County, Ohio TWITTER
Athens County Emergency Management
Athens County Red Cross
Lancaster Eagle Gazette

What Causes Tornadoes? (What to do when they are nearby. Myths, scientific diagrams, etc.)

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