Blown away: Wapak recovers from 90 mph winds

Sustained winds in excess of 80 mph and gusts topping the 90 mph mark Friday afternoon toppled trees, downed power lines and damaged buildings throughout Wapakoneta and the region.

Wapakoneta Mayor Rodney Metz said he knew of two people who suffered injuries as a result of damage from the high winds. A person in the showroom of Mike Swaney’s automotive dealer suffered cuts when a plate glass window shattered from the wind.

A woman suffered injuries when she was struck by a fallen tree limb while walking near the Wapakoneta branch of the Auglaize County Public District Library.

“We are working on restoring power as we speak,” Metz said early Friday evening. “We have had to check a 69k line coming into the city and crews are walking the line which is difficult as it gets darker. When we complete that we will switch off all the substations, restore power and start turning on each substation one at a time.”

He said it may take longer for power to be restored to the industries on Industrial Drive.

Power, which was interrupted at approximately 4:30 p.m. Friday, was restored to most of the city by 10 p.m.

Trees and branches blocked several city streets including West Auglaize Street, while roofing material was in front of the City Bakery and a wood awning fell in front of an East Auglaize Street business, while glass was strewn across Park Street when a window at the Bridal Emporium shattered.

At Veterans Memorial Park, two dugouts on the larger baseball diamonds blew over. The roof of the first-base dugout on the field closest to the concession stand blew off and took down the fence on the baseball diamond to the southeast. The dugout was blown over at its base.

The roof and walls of the third-base dugout on the other large field also blew over at its base.

Electrical lines to several of the lights at the field came unattached.

Damage was not isolated to the city as the ball diamonds at Wapakoneta High School sustained extensive damage.

“We are still evaluating everything at this point,” Operations Director Mike Watt said. “We are documenting the damage with photos and have already contacted the insurance company.

“During walk-thrus of the buildings, everything seems OK with the exteriors, but we haven’t been up on the roofs yet,” he said. “What is noticeable is damage to the varsity softball and baseball diamonds. The varsity baseball field’s two dugouts had roofs blown off. They will have to be torn down and we will have to start over. The left-field and center-field fence at the varsity softball field was dismantled.”

The batting cage at the softball diamond was mangled as it hit a fence. The batting cage at the baseball diamond blew over to the kindergarten playground.

Watt said the pole vault pits were scattered at the track, but they have been secured.

The Auglaize County Health Department is storing vaccines in the refrigerator at the high school because power is being provided by a generator.

Auglaize County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director Troy Anderson said he measured sustained winds 82 mph with gusts of 90 mph.

“I see a lot of wind damage and we are looking at doing assessments,” Anderson said. “As of 5:40 p.m., DP&L is reporting it has 1,708 customers in Auglaize County alone without power. I am working on getting numbers from Midwest Electric.”

Anderson said numerous barns across the county collapsed. Roofs lost shingles and fallen trees caused the closure of some roads in the area.

“The Liette farm on (Ohio) 703 had one building go down,” Anderson said. “There was a pontoon boat blow over on the southside of the lake the ended up on the road. Ohio 364 south of St. Marys near Otterbein is closed at this time due to trees on the road.”

Anderson said he is looking for any photos of storm damage as well as evidence of possible tornadoes.

“Someone had photos on a phone of funnels —  one was on I-75 near mile marker 109 and another was on U.S. 33,” Anderson said. “If anyone has copies, they can post them on my Auglaize County EMA Facebook page. I need those to confirm what we had. We had a lot of wind damage and I’m not saying it was a tornado. Without those photos, all I can say now is we had a wind event.”

Auglaize County Fairgrounds Manager Fred Piehl called workers to the fairgrounds to cut up 11 large trees that were uprooted or were toppled at the base.

“I just thank God that this was not during the fair — we avoided anyone getting hurt,” Piehl said. “We did lose 11 trees which provided a lot of shade and they were probably as old as the fair. We also had damage to the roof of one of the horse barns and the roof of the Fruit Hall sustained some damage.”

Piehl said they planned to tear down the horse barn, but money was always diverted to make improvements. Now, they will have to come up with the funds to raze the building.

They also will need to come up with the money to fix the Fruit Hall’s roof.

Several electrical lines were downed on the grounds because of the trees.

While no one was injured at the fairgrounds, Piehl said several tents for the Fourth of July Festival, organized by St. Joseph Catholc Church, were damaged by fallen trees since they were setting up early for the two-day affair.

The damage extended across the entire county.

“Right now we are driving around and taking assessments,” St. Marys Police Chief Greg Foxhoven said Friday night. “There’s a lot of damage — there’s homes with trees on roofs, trees on cars and limbs and branches everywhere.”

Foxhoven said a home on Royal Oak sustained damage from a falling tree. Downed power lines also posed initial safety risks as crews hurried to fix the infrastructure.

“Those have been secured,” Foxhoven said. “I think a lot of the town should be back on and if they aren’t they should be soon.”

Police officers and Public Works Department crew members in Wapakoneta and St. Marys directed traffic or posted four-way stop signs to keep motorists safe at intersections. In St. Marys, members of the general services department placed four-way stop signs at major intersections while crews rushed to restore power — section by section.

The storm also caused extensive damage at Grand Lake St. Marys State Park.

“There was very little, if any, damage at the campgrounds,” State Park Manager Brian Miller said. “I’ve had a full crew working in the campgrounds as soon as it ended. We haven’t started on East Bank Road and it’s closed at this point.”

Miller said downed trees and limbs are blocking portions of the road. He expected the road to be cleared sometime today.

The storm also caused a delay in the New Knoxville Independence Day Celebration. Organizers canceled Friday’s slate of activities. However, activities will resume, as scheduled, today. The festival also will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

“Some tents got blown around and some trees are down, but nothing significant,” Southwestern Auglaize County Chamber of Commerce Director Scott Frey said. “People should come out Saturday and Sunday and enjoy the fun.”


Staff Writer Mike Burkholder contributed to this story.