Winds befall Wapak

Staff Writers
Through tears a Wapakoneta woman talked about the damage a heavy windstorm late Wednesday night and early this morning caused to her home of 40 years.
Carolyn and Ron Zenz were in bed when the heavy winds came through just before midnight Wednesday, ripping their front porch off the house and tossing it into the neighbor’s yard. Half of their roof was peeled back on the home and the winds flung their front porch swing into a neighbor’s truck.
“I heard a real heavy wind — I can’t even say it was a roar — all of a sudden and I jumped out of bed,” Carolyn Zenz said. “It was gone as quick as it came. It was over and done so quick.”
At first, Zenz said she didn’t know how bad the destruction was to their home at 708 Dearbaugh Ave. then she noticed the cover was off their attic and when she looked up and she said she could see the flag pole outside. She then heard the rain falling into the house.
The couple moved everything they could to the back of the home, where damage was less, and planned to stay with their daughter until they could get back in their own home.
At daybreak this morning, Ron Zenz was already out working at the home, joining other residents helping to clean up and make repairs caused by the storm, which left trees down and power poles snapped throughout their neighborhood.
Carolyn Zenz, who recently retired as a dispatcher from the Auglaize County Sheriff’s Office, said she went to bed not really worrying about the storm, figuring she would wake up when it got closer.
“It came up really quick, and the porch and the front of the house are pretty much gone,” Zenz said.
Shock was the first emotion that hit as Zenz said she wondered what they were going to do. They had to wait in line behind other area residents hit hard by the storm, particularly those in New Knoxville, before an insurance agent could come out and look at the property across from the Auglaize County Fairgrounds, that the Zenzs have put their hearts and souls into through the years.
Even as she continued to grapple with the aftermath of this morning’s storm on her own home, Zenz said she felt so much sorrow for the people of Oklahoma that lost so much more when a tornado came through there in May, killing 24 and injuring 300.
The path of this local storm hit New Knoxville and then tore down a barn near County Road 33A and Kettlersville Road.
A semitrailer being driven west on U.S. 33 at County Road 33A was overturned by a strong gust of wind at 12:06 a.m. Thursday.
The driver, Michael Horn, 51, of Dayton, was wearing a seatbelt and was uninjured in the crash, which disabled the 2001 International Harvester he was driving for Jet Express, of Dayton. Horn was driving 55 miles per hour in a 55 mph zone when the gust of wind came through. The truck was towed from the scene.
The wind then struck the Greenlawn Cemetery at the edge of Wapakoneta city limits, downing trees throughout the cemetery and pushing over three trees on a wrought-iron fence on the east edge. The storm then downed trees at the Auglaize County Fairgrounds before hitting the Zenz’s home and West Plum Street.
One person described West Plum Street as a tunnel from the trees covering the roadway. The damage started at Dearbaugh Avenue and continued to South Blackhoof Street and then moved to the east side of Willipie Street.
Damage was done to trees and homes along the path to Bellefontaine Street.
“I don’t know if this was quite a war zone on Plum Street,” Safety-Service Director Bill Rains said, “but it certainly rivals anything that happened on June 29 last week.
“It is unbelievable,” he said. “It wasn’t like last year where the entire city saw large amounts of damage, this was very localized. If you go a block to the north of West Plum Street, you see very little damage, no more than after a regular thunderstorm. It was concentrated to that Plum Street area.”
Rains could not provide an estimate on the number of residences without power at press time, but the outage was primarily to the south side of Wapakoneta — in a straight line along Plum Street, Douglas Street, Walmart parking lot, Lucky Steer and Bob Evans.
He said city Electric Department line workers reported to work at 12:15 a.m. and have been working throughout the early morning hours.
“The Electric Department workers are doing all they can to restore power to city residents, but we have at least a dozen if not 20 electric poles down which is slowing them down.”
After holding an early morning discussion with Electric Department Superintendent Donnie Schnarre, Rains said Schnarre is working to restore power within the next 24 hours.
Rains called for mutual aid from the municipalities of Deschler, Bryan and Bowling Green and requested Vaughn Industries, of Carey, to help with a larger electrical line.
Rains described the event as straight-line winds and not a tornado, but he is waiting for word from the National Weather Service.
Auglaize County EMA Director Troy Anderson said the storms rolled into the area packing winds up to 60 mph. The National Weather Service issued multiple watches and warnings throughout the day — something Anderson said gave residents plenty of time to plan ahead for the storm.
“As we got the storms, we noticed it was coming out of the northwest,” Anderson said this morning. “There were a lot of winds and we had a few reports of funnel clouds in southern Van Wert and northern Auglaize County. Van Wert did activate its sirens as there were several visual sightings in the Van Wert area. At that same time, around 12:30 a.m. to 1 a.m., we got reports down in the southwestern part of Auglaize County, by the bulkhead, about power lines and poles being snapped.”
New Knoxville got hit hard by the storm. Neil Armstrong Airport sustained damage and Anderson said there was a mile stretch of Ohio 219 that had numerous buildings damaged by the winds.
“The airport also had a gas leak,” Anderson said. “The New Knoxville Fire Department handled that and I know that several other area fire departments were out during the storm.”
Anderson said he cannot confirm a tornado touched down in Auglaize County at this time.
St. Mary interim Safety-Service Director Greg Foxhoven said there were no power outages within the city limits during the storm. However, four poles outside the city broke — three of which feed the New Knoxville area and one that feeds the Tri Township area.
“We faired pretty well,” Foxhoven said this morning. “The north circuit blinked and they’ll walk that line later today to see if there is a branch on it.”
Foxhoven said a crew from the Electric Distribution Department was dispatched at midnight to reset the three poles feeding the New Knoxville area. He said he expected crews to work on the pole that feeds the Tri Township area later today.
“Other than some debris, I think we faired pretty well,” Foxhoven said.
Anderson said a portion of Ohio 67, near Uniopolis, had several barns with roofs taken off because of the straight-line winds.
“I don’t see a conversion pattern now,” Anderson said. “I am out doing damage assessments and after that, I’ll go back and check to see if there is a pattern.”
Anderson said the event the county experienced was not a derecho — which was the system that hit the region last year.
“I wouldn’t consider it that because the way it came across, it wasn’t a bow shape,” Anderson said. “It was a line of things in a fast pace.”
Anderson said he did not get any major damage reports in the St. Marys, New Bremen or Minster areas. He also noted he did not receive any injury reports associated with the storm.
New Bremen Village Administrator Wayne York said the village had an hour power outage because of an issue with a DP&L line that feeds the village. Once the line — which was between St. Marys and New Bremen — was fixed, the village was back on.
“There was no problem with the village’s actual electric system,” York said. “We don’t know the extent of the damage to DP&L’s line but once they closed the switch and moved some things around, we were back in business.”
York also noted he did not receive any reports of downed trees in the village. The New Bremen outage lasted from 12:10 a.m. to 1:10 a.m.