Remembering the powerful tornado that killed 7

Kelly J. Kaczala

        On the night of June 5, 2010, a tornado, with winds of approximately 170-175 mph, blew through northeast Wood and western Ottawa counties and left extensive damage in the wake of its path. When the dust settled, seven people lost their lives as a result of injuries sustained from the powerful twister.
        At approximately 11:20 p.m., a tornado moved across the south side of Moline, near Metcalf Airport, across the northwest side of Millbury, into Ottawa County following Trowbridge Rd, and finally lifted at 11:35 p.m. just west of Clay Center.
         Debris from damaged homes were strewn across the landscape like broken match sticks.
        Lake High School sustained severe damage at its Lemoyne Road campus and had to be rebuilt. After the tornado leveled the high school, more than 500 Lake High School students – grades nine through 12-were left without a school. The Lake school board accepted an offer to use the Owens Community College Center for Development and Training Building, a 53,000-square-foot building on Tracy Road in Northwood, as the district’s high school for 2010-12.
        The graduation ceremony for 104 Lake senior class students was held at the Owens Student Health and Activities Center just days after the high school was destroyed.
        The Lake Township Police Department and administrative building were severely damaged.
        Some residents had gone to bed earlier that evening and never heard the tornado sirens going off. Others huddled in their basements for shelter. A young couple out on the road fled their vehicle seeking shelter at the Lake Township Police Department. One of them didn’t survive.  
Jet engine sound
        Air Force veteran John “Jack” Gallagher’s Trowbridge Road home was hit hard by the tornadoes. He, his wife, daughter and daughter’s boyfriend took shelter in their basement. Gallagher told The Press at the time that the noise of an incoming tornado could be compared to the sound of a fighter jet he knew so much about during his stint in Vietnam.
        “There was this really loud, jet engine type sound, and there was dust and things breaking, windows going and stuff being ripped and torn all over. I had no doubt what it was.” They did not receive any injuries.
        Janice and Ronald Johns saw their home on Collins Road in Millbury destroyed that night.
        “We heard the sirens and I grabbed my things to take them downstairs,” Janice told The Press at the time. “Ron went outside to see what was going on.”  Minutes later, he ran into the house and told Janice to get downstairs immediately. She was on the last step to the basement when it hit.
        “The sound was overwhelming and very loud,” said Janice. “There was a ton of pressure. I was on the step and all of a sudden a piece of cement came through the house and hit me on the back of my head.” Her husband was hit hard. She helped roll a large piece of cement off her husband, which turned out to have come from an inner cement liner from the home’s chimney.
        “We got up, grabbed our flashlight, and went up the stairs. Our house was gone. It was all gone within seconds. It was just a flat piece of property.” They sustained bumps and bruises, but neither had broken bones. “We were very fortunate to be here,” she had said.
Death toll
        Others were not so lucky. Seven people, including a four-year-old boy, died as a result of their injuries.
        The victims included three members of the Walters’ family. Ryan Lance Walters died on June 13 from his injuries sustained from the tornado eight days earlier. His wife, Mary, and their four-year-old son Hayden died the night the twister hit the house. The Walter’s eight-year-old daughter Madison was the sole survivor. She recovered from her injuries and was raised by relatives.
        Ted Kranz, 46, was killed when one of the tornados slammed into his house in Millbury. He had left the safety of the basement to check on a generator. His daughter, Katelyn Kranz, was the Lake High School senior class valedictorian who was scheduled to give her speech the following day at the graduation ceremony at the high school.
        Bailey Bowman, 20, died after she and her boyfriend, Gerald Lathrop Sr. were driving home from dinner along State Route 795. Lathrop said at the time that they had tried to get to the Lake Township Police Department on Cummings Road for shelter. They got to the building, but the winds from the tornado kept them from getting inside.
        “I never saw what happened to her. I ended up getting thrown against the building and the only thing that saved my life were two landscaping boulders – one on my right and one on my left - that held the building up and kept it from falling on me,” said Lathrop at the time. “The whole building collapsed and I’ve never experienced anything like that.”  Bailey was later found nearby.
        Their two-year-old son, Gerald Jr., was not with them at the time.
        Kathleen Hammitt, 56, was driving home on St. Rte. 795 after visiting her husband in the hospital when the storm hit. The twister picked up her vehicle and flung it over 50 yards. She died from her injuries.
        Irwin Welling, 97, died from his injuries nearly two months later on July 31. He and his wife were pulled from the remains of their home.
        The community came together and held fundraisers to help people get back on their feet.
        The following week, countless restaurants donated 15 percent of total sales to the communities hit by the tornadoes. Some of the local restaurants participating in the June 10 fundraiser included Luckies Barn and Grill in Oregon, JoJo’s Pizza in Walbridge, Moodies Coney Island in Northwood, Burnsey’s in Oregon, and Sonic in Oregon. Yeeha’s in Oregon held a fundraiser on June 17. Ray’z Café raised $15,000 on June 12 with a chicken dinner, silent auctions, and side raffles.
        St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Millbury held a BBQ chicken dinner. A benefit was held for the Lake Township Relief Fund, which aided Wood and Ottawa County tornado victims, at Metcalf Field in Millbury. The American Red Cross Greater Toledo Area Chapter released about $35,000 to United Way of Greater Toledo’s long-term storm recovery fund.
        In the coming weeks, The Press will publish several articles and photos in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the tornado. They will include the recollections of survivors, government officials, first responders, memorials, and neighbors helping neighbors.


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