Readers share their memories from June 5, 2010 tornado

Tammy Walro

        In recent weeks, The Press invited readers to share their memories of the tornado that hit Millbury and its surrounding area on June 5, 2010.  Here is what they had to say.
The air turned green
        Betty Hyre and her husband, Chuck, who live on Ayers Road in Millbury, had returned home that Saturday following a belated 49th wedding anniversary celebration.
        Betty was working on a project on her computer when she heard a TV weatherman forecasting the possibility of a tornado. “When there were actual tornado warnings,” she recalls, “I gathered some pillows, our cellphones and flashlights and headed downstairs, where Chuck had also been following the forecast. The weather radar looked ominous. We opened the hide-a-bed, preparing to sleep in the basement, knowing that we had a strong chance of a bad storm, we remained glued to the weather reports.”
        At about 10:45 p.m., the power went out at the Hyre home. “We lit our flashlights and soon heard what we thought to be a loud, on-going roll of thunder. Because the sound continued longer than usual, we knew it was not thunder,” Betty said. “At almost the same time, a flash of lightening drew our attention to the east basement window, where the outside air was an eerie, bright pea-green color.”
        The couple quickly moved to a secure area away from the ground-level windows. Being in the basement, most outdoor sounds were muffled, but “we now feel that the roar and the green air would have been when the tornado was passing about a quarter of a mile south of our home.”
        After the storm, a check of their house and property found no noticeable damage. The couple sat on their sun porch in the dark and watched as the parking lot at the Lake Township fire station a short distance west of their home “began to fill with emergency vehicles of all kinds, motors idling and red flashers going. We could see police, rescue and fire trucks arriving from locations such as Rossford, Northwood and Wauseon, among other places,” Hyre said. “We knew from the activity this was serious.”
        As the “first bit of daylight” arrived, the couple went outside to see what they could. “Looking east across the field to Millbury Road/Main Street, less than a half mile away, we saw total devastation,” she said. “Houses were missing entirely. Some homes were still standing with heavy destruction, roofs caved in, sides missing. Seeing empty lots where we had once seen homes was shocking and hard to comprehend.
        “Neighbors and people from everywhere came walking east on Ayers Road to see for themselves the damage. The road in front of our home became a constant stream of cars, pedestrians and golf carts. The authorities had closed all roads nearby because of severe destruction,” she recalled, bent and damaged electrical towers that run from Route 795 north over Ayers Road.
        “Volunteers quickly began showing up and stations were set up to coordinate the help effort at the fire station and Fireside Park beside the station,” Hyre said. “Many caring volunteers simply went to where they saw a need and pitched in, separating metal from wood and looking for anything of a personal nature to be returned to families. St. Peter’s Church in Millbury became a refuge center for some in the early days and the church members and friends began distributing water and food to the affected families and volunteers…”
        Hyre said that over the next week, Ayers Road was a hub of activity. “Volunteers came to pitch in, heading out with buckets and walking to Main Street, Millbury, the heaviest concentrated area of damage. Strangers, friends and family members swarmed to help. People manned chain saws and cut up the massive amounts of downed trees. We were heartened to see how the goodwill efforts went on and on and on.”
A memorable night
        Tami Roe, of Millbury, recalls the sound of her then-3-month-old baby, Lauren, crying as she watched red funnels on the weather map on TV.
        “Maybe 20 minutes after she had finally gone to sleep, I remember rushing outside to see the storm. I vividly remember dancing in the hail that night. I can also remember hearing a train, which was not actually there.”
        When the tornado sirens began to wail, Roe and her family – who live in a farmhouse with no basement – went to St. Peter’s United Church of Christ on Main Street to take safety in the basement as they usually do in such situations.
        “I remember there were many dogs there that night, and everyone being very, very quiet,” she recalls. “That crazy, sad, hectic, tragic night, the tornado wreaked havoc and destruction on our little town.”
        Roe says she remembers that night for another reason, too. June 5, 2010 was the very first night Lauren, who is now 10, ever slept through the night.
        “Not even a tornado could waken her,” she recalls.
Breathtaking destruction
        The sight left Jamie Stahl breathless.
        “My in-laws, Max and Laura Bickley, lost their home in the tornado on June 5, 2010. They lived just off of SR 795 on Moline Martin Road,” Stahl said. “The tornado went across SR 795 and dropped on their house and the other homes on their road, hit the train cars (in Walbridge Yard), then the (Lake Township) police station, Lake High School and so on.
        Fortunately, Stahl says, her in-laws escaped injury. “When we showed up the next day to help them start the cleanup,” she says, “it literally took your breath away to see what they had lived through.”
Worry and relief
        A Woodville mom, who wished to remain anonymous, recalls her son and other members of his Boy Scout troop in Pemberville were camping in the Oak Opening area and were set to return home that night.  
        “As the storm was moving through the area, and I was worrying about where my son was, I got a phone call from him saying they are in the assistant scout leader’s car and on their way home,” she recalls. “I asked where they were. He said they were by the Ohio Turnpike and could see telephone poles/transmitters exploding and on fire. He said they would be home in 15-20 minutes.
        “By then, the storm had passed and the scout leader’s car pulled up in the driveway with my son and the scouts who live in Gibsonburg. They all were talking about the storm and how cool it was, etc. They had no idea that they were driving parallel to the tornado.
        “I was just so relieved he was home, and was thinking how brave the scout leader was to keep all those boys so calm.
        The next day, my son saw the damage on the news and pictures of the destruction at Lake High School, buses turned over, etc. I had never seen him be so somber and serious. He never realized how dangerous the storm was until he saw those pictures. Then he knew how God protected him and the others to get them home safely.”
Shocking to see
        “June 5, 2010 is one of those days people will talk about for years,” said Sue Brinker, who lives on Tracy Road in Walbridge.
        She recalls sitting on the couch in her living room that evening, watching the weather report of cloud rotations being very close. “Suddenly, the window air conditioner went silent and the valance stood straight out,” she said. “I wished I’d gone to the basement.”
        A neighbor watched the funnel tear through trees along Keller Road. 
        “ The nice Eureka tent that had been airing out in our backyard was scattered around, with the main section found in the top of a tree more than a mile away,” Brinker said.
        “We watched the news reports and were shocked when we finally drove to see it in person,” she said
        “I put the newspapers aside; reading about it was too difficult. Later, I would cut articles out to read when things settled down,” she said. “I found it interesting how many times, even years later, the tornado would be written about.”
Tami Roe and her baby Lauren, taken a week before the tornado. (Submitted photo)


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