CELINA — It felt like it was never going to end: Celina residents were caught off guard when an EF-3 tornado leveled several neighborhoods here late Monday evening, killing one, injuring seven and damaging at least 40 homes.
“It was terrifying, you could just feel it,” said Ashley Braun, who was taken by surprise when a tornado ripped apart her Fairground Road home late Monday night.
She and her husband, Joey, barely escaped the worst. The couple sought shelter in their home’s bathtub minutes before the tornado tore through. They are now leaning on friends and family as they recover.
“We have a lot of family and support. … We’re alive, that’s all that matters,” Ashley Braun said.
The sole confirmed casualty was Melvin Hanna, 81. Seven others were injured, including three whose injuries were deemed serious, according to Celina Mayor Jeffrey Hazel.
The residential areas along Fairground Road and the Wheatland Acres and Bruns neighborhoods saw the most damage.
“Pretty much everyone was out moving around,” said Troy Knapke, another Fairground Road resident whose home was destroyed Monday. Knapke, like many of his neighbors, was getting ready for bed when the power went out. He and his wife rushed their daughter to the basement minutes before their home was leveled.
“The whole thing seemed to last about 10 seconds and it was done,” he recalled. “It was quick. (We) came up and there’s nothing there.”
A shelter was open at the Coldwater Eagles Club about five miles south of Celina for those displaced by the storm. Todd James, an American Red Cross spokesman, said the shelter will remain open “as long as it’s needed.”
“(We) got a lot of people who don’t have their home to go to tonight,” Hazel said.
Hazel had been tracking Monday’s storm but was still surprised by the extent of damage.
“It looked like just the lower tip was going to get near Celina,” Hazel recalled. “We didn’t think anything about it until we started to do the warnings through the Sheriff’s Office about a thunderstorm warning, and then it turned into a tornado warning. At that point, shortly thereafter the sirens went off and within a few minutes the power went out, which means it hit.”
Disaster response efforts are underway.
Many members of the community came out to help clear debris from the streets on Tuesday.
Gov. Mike DeWine and several state representatives were in town too as part of a multi-county damage assessment tour.
“This is very, very tough on people,” DeWine said. “I wanted to come not only to see what was going on and see what we can do to help, but frankly just to be on the ground and express my concern to people.”
DeWine has declared a state of emergency in Mercer, Greene and Montgomery counties.