SIDNEY – Damage at Lake Loramie State Park caused by high winds last week was a reminder that Ohio is in the middle of the most dangerous time of year for high winds and tornadoes.
During his weekly interview, Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart said last week’s storms – which led to a camper being taken to the hospital with back and hip injuries after a tree fell on him – reminded him of a wave of tornadoes on Palm Sunday in 1965.
“It almost followed the same track from Fort Loramie to Maplewood, Jackson Center area,” Lenhart said. “It was kind of déjà vu from that perspective.”
The 1965 storm system, which was the nation’s second largest outbreak at the time, spawned 47 tornadoes in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa. The storms caused 271 deaths and 1,500 injuries.
In Shelby County, three deaths in Anna, Swanders and Maplewood were caused by the Palm Sunday tornadoes. Twenty-five Shelby County homes were destroyed along the 18.4 mile track, and 20 others were heavily damaged. Train cars were overturned, and an automobile was thrown more than 200 yards.
Blackberry Island at Lake Loramie still shows some of the effects of the 1965 storms as trees on the front part of the island are smaller than surrounding areas.
“It truly redesigned that lake area,” Lenhart said.
Last year was the United States’ most active year for tornadoes on record with more than 1,000 reported across the nation. Eighty people were killed by tornadoes in 2019, and 1,500 people suffered injuries.
“The reason for less deaths is because of notification,” Lenhart said. “People are taking shelter. Back in 1965, I don’t think there were any tornado sirens around.”
Now, weather stations typically give about 15 minutes notice about an approaching storm. It’s important that people are aware of the reports and take appropriate action, Lenhart said.
“If you’re outdoors, try to get inside a building if that’s possible,” Lenhart said.
“If at home, seek shelter in your cellar, your basement, a safe room. And if you don’t have those options, go to the lowest level of your home.”
If other options aren’t available, people can get under a heavy desk or table, Lenhart said. They also should protect their heads and necks with a blanket, and everyone should stay away from windows during a storm.
Anyone who is in a mall, cafeteria, gymnasium or any other building with a wide-span roof should move to a smaller room like a bathroom.
Those who are in a mobile home should take shelter in a building with a strong foundation. If that’s not available, get in a ditch or another low-lying area.
“Half of the fatalities from tornadoes and high winds are from mobile homes,” Lenhart said.
Anyone who is in a car when a storm hits should slow down, keep both hands on the steering wheel and get to a place where there aren’t crosswinds. They also should avoid large trucks, buses and recreational vehicles and also should stay away from flooded areas.
When possible, park away from woods and do not stop on a bridge.
“I read an article where somebody parked in a heavy storm on the Mackinac Bridge, and it threw the car off the bridge,” Lenhart said.
People also should be aware of downed power lines and should remain in their car if there are downed lines near them.
“Don’t even get out of the car,” Lenhart said. “Stay in the car until someone of authority tells you those lines are dead.”
Tornado outbreaks in the United States usually occur from March through September, Lenhart said, and tend to be worst during the summer months.
“We’re going to be right in the middle of it in June, July and August,” he said.
In other news, Lenhart said the state penitentiary finally opened up to receive women. A couple weeks ago the state started accepting men after a pause related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Inmates who were scheduled to go to state prisons had been housed in jails across the state, including a woman and three or four men in Shelby County’s jail, Lenhart said.
Also following a pause related to the pandemic, the Sheriff’s Office has restarted its firearms training for churches. The office also has resumed ALICE training, which stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate.
Lenhart also thanked Pemberton Baptist Church and Sidney First United Methodist Church for donating pizza, coffee and doughnuts to the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.
“We deeply appreciate the kindness, but if they keep feeding us like that we’re going to have to get bigger uniforms,” Lenhart said.
The Sidney Daily News conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.