Tornado hits Ohio’s Amish country

damaged buggy
This buggy, which was used for display at a bed and breakfast, received heavy damage from the high winds.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Around 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 5, 2010, the National Weather Service issued a Tornado Warning for Holmes County, the heart of the world’s largest Amish population.

Sirens sounded as the storm rapidly approached. As a Skywarn spotter, I scanned the sky from the safety of my home. As the rain intensified, the sky looked ominous, and the sirens sounded again. However, it appeared that the worst of the storm had gone south of me. A friend alerted me to possible damage in the Berlin area.

I grabbed my camera, put on my waterproof shoes and headed south. I didn’t get very far. Fallen trees only two miles south of my home blocked the road. The fierce winds had ravaged old-growth woods behind a friend of mine’s home west of Berlin. A few homes were slightly damaged, a shed was completely destroyed and many trees were toppled.

I followed the damage into the west side of Berlin, where again trees were down, some laying in opposite directions. A home had the upper half of a large tree on its roof and the wind sent a limb through the roof of a nearby motel.

The next damage was east of Berlin near Hiland High School. Much of the damage there was from straight-line winds. Roofs were damaged; metal storage buildings buckled and signs were blown onto cars, damaging eight vehicles. Fortunately on one was injured.

Firefighters spotted a funnel cloud west of Walnut Creek, where the first official touchdown was recorded. A large garage at a bed and breakfast was destroyed. The storm continued east-southeast through Walnut Creek Township. A combination of straight-line winds and tornado winds downed trees, and damaged sheds and two houses near Walnut Creek, and then hit metal storage buildings south of Walnut Creek. The tornado touched down again at Gerber Valley Farms on CR 144 southeast of Walnut Creek where it damaged two barns. The tornado did minor damage to a few homes on a township road near the county line.

Once the tornado passed into Tuscarawas County at Sugarcreek, it intensified into an EF-1 tornado, according the Pittsburgh office of the National Weather Service, which has jurisdiction for Tuscarawas County and points east. They estimated the tornado winds at 95 m.p.h.

The tornado did major damage to Skyline Mobile Home Company on SR 93 north and to a home across the road. Several large trees were toppled. From there, the storm hit Uhrden Corporation and Zinck’s Fabric warehouse on the northeast side of Sugarcreek. It crossed the flooded Sugar Creek, causing heavy damage to both the old and new sewer treatment plant buildings of the village. Just east of there it hit a home and caused major damage to Sugarcreek Pallet.

The tornado continued east, striking four homes along SR 39 on the eastern edge of Sugarcreek. All four had roof damage. The tornado crossed SR 39, hit another industrial building and destroyed a large barn on the Lorenz farm south of Dutch Valley Restaurant. At that point, the tornado lifted.

In all, I spent five hours taking pictures. The shots below are representative of the damage that occurred in the path of this storm.

Damaged trees
Old-growth trees were splintered and tossed like sticks west of Berlin, OH.
damaged car
This was one of several cars damaged by a large sign that was blown onto them east of Berlin.
damaged garage
High winds destroyed this garage halfway between Berlin and Walnut Creek, OH.
damaged home at Robert J. Yoder farm.
The tornado hit at the Robert J. Yoder farm near Walnut Creek, OH.
Gerber Valley Farm
Neighbors and workers began replacing the roof of this broiler house near Walnut Creek shortly after the tornado hit.
Skyline Mobile Homes
The tornado buckled the south wall at Skyline Mobile Homes, Sugarcreek, OH.
Inside Skyline
The tornado peeled much of the roof off Skyline Mobile Homes, Sugarcreek, OH.
Uhrden Company
The tornado blew out every wall of the north section of Uhrden Company, Sugarcreek, OH.
flooding at Sugarcreek, OH
Flooding in Sugarcreek, OH was a problem both before and after the tornado hit the buildings in the background and the tree in the water.
Lorenz barn
The tornado destroyed the main barn on the Lorenz farm east of Sugarcreek, OH.

A Mother’s Day gift from my mother

By Bruce Stambaugh

My mother gave me an early Mother’s Day present this year. I know. It’s supposed to work the other way around.

The gift presented itself in the evening of one of our incredible summer-like spring days we’ve had recently in rural Ohio. I had gone to have supper with Mom at the assisted living facility where she lives.

Marian Stambaugh

After the meal, I pushed Mom’s wheelchair down the hall towards her room. Since it was still nice outside, I asked Mom if she wanted to go out on the porch awhile. I pretty well knew her response would be positive.

We settled on the southwest corner of the wraparound porch. From there, we had a panoramic view of the broad, bucolic valley below. We could see far to the east, south and west. The evening sun was still strong, its breeze just a whisper.

Mom and Dad used to spend as much time together on the porch as they could. From their elevated position high on the hill, they had a lot to take in.

Together they enjoyed watching the progress of the construction of a covered bridge the county erected over a usually gentle stream. They could see Amish farmers mowing hay in the flat, fertile fields on either side of the creek.

They watched the traffic on both the county road that climbed the long hill into the little town of Walnut Creek and on the state route that bypassed both. They preferred the buggies plodding up the step grade to the rumbling trucks on the highway.

With Dad gone now, it was up to us family members and staff to encourage Mom to take advantage of evenings like this. Her Alzheimer’s disease prevented her from even initiating the idea. But if somebody else suggested it, she was all for it as long as the weather cooperated.

This fine evening was downright perfect. Besides the temperature, the earth vividly declared its beauty, much like the many landscapes Mom had painted over the years.

She no longer paints, but her appreciation for both nature and her own natural affinity for appealing colors remain. She still picks out her own clothes to wear each day, and receives many compliments on her color coordination.

Mom hasn’t lost her artistic eye, either. At first, she didn’t say much as she gazed over the vibrant scenery. Eventually, she began to point out the various flowering trees, all at their peek. And she did so in complete, spontaneous sentences, something her disease has greatly diminished in this lovely lady.

Long, comfortable silent spells punctuated our conversing. We listened to bluebirds warble their blissful songs. Cardinals called. Song sparrows sang echoing solos.

Mom asked me what those yellow things were far off in the distance. I asked her if she meant the objects with the silver, pointy tops. She said, “Yes,” as she pointed with her finger. I told her those were corncribs like Uncle Kenny used to have on his farm.

Soon a green four-door sedan, exactly like the car Mom and Dad had before we sold it recently, pulled from the parking lot below us. Mom watched the car travel all the way out the drive.

She turned toward me and instead of saying, “That looks like our car,” Mom surprised me with an even greater upbeat comment. “I wish I could still drive!” she said with a fantastic smile.

For me, Mom’s moment of recognition and effusive expression was an unexpected and unforgettable Mother’s Day gift.

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