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From the National Weather Service, the red area marks the swath of one of the Mercer County tornadoes.

Nov. 5 tornadoes left their mark on rural Ohio

On the afternoon of Sunday, Nov. 5, 15 tornadoes touched down in different parts of Ohio, according to the National Weather Service. They include:

  • Celina (Mercer county) EF2
  • Mercer (Western Mercer County) EF2
  • Steuben (Huron County) EF1
  • Fitchville (Huron county) EF0
  • West Lodi (Seneca County) EF1
  • Republic (Seneca County) EF2
  • Wooster (Wayne County) EF1
  • South Vienna (Clark and Madison counties) EF1
  • Calcutta (Colombiana County) EF1
  • Hayesville (Ashland County) EF1
  • Nova (Ashland County) EF0
  • Gallon (Crawford County) EF1
  • Bloomingville (Erie County) EF1
  • Clyde (Sandusky County) EF1
  • Williamsfield (Ashtabula County) EF2.

For reference, the Enhanced Fujita Scale classifies tornadoes into the following categories: EF0 — Wind speeds 65 to 85 mph; EF1 — Wind speeds 86 to 110 mph; EF2 — Wind speeds 111 to 135 mph; EF3 — Wind speeds 136 to 165 mph; EF4— Wind speeds 166 to 200 mph; EF5 — Wind speeds greater than 200 mph.

Some of the most significant damage in Ohio took place in Mercer County where two 120-mile per hour tornados touched down and swept through Mercer County affecting homes, businesses, farm facilities, livestock and crops.

According to the National Weather Service, one of the tornadoes touched down in Celina and skirted Grand Lake St. Marys, causing eight injuries. Some of the most significant damage was at Crown Equipment Corporation where a significant portion of the roof was removed and exterior walls on the southwest side of the building collapsed. Several other businesses were affected as well.

A second tornado swept in from the state line, according to the National Weather Service report. The tornado crossed into Mercer County and cut a swath up to 500 yards wide on its 8-mile path affecting more than 20 properties.

“It was pretty fast moving. Within less than a minute it was done. It just hit and was gone. I was at home watching the Bengals game and working in the garage,” said Denny Reithman, Mercer County Extension educator. “I live in Coldwater and there were reports of strong storms coming and the sirens went off right away. It came on the TV that there was a tornado on the ground.”

Some of the most severe damage was at a 400-cow dairy farm. At this location, a small home had its roof completely removed. Barns and outbuildings on the property were significantly damaged or destroyed, and debris from this location was deposited up to a mile away, according to the National Weather Service.

“There are a lot of good people in Mercer County. The strength of the farmers coming together to help out was amazing, but the damage is disheartening. We saw the wrath of Mother Nature. The pictures don’t do justice to what actually happened. The dairy facility was less than a year old and it was leveled.

Cows entrapped in a barn that collapsed in a storm on 11/5/17Courtesy Auglaize EMA
Cows entrapped in a barn that collapsed in a storm on 11/5/17Courtesy Auglaize EMA

The metal roofing was rolled up like tin foil. It was crumbled up and thrown all over. It littered the corn fields around it with debris. The tornado flattened a 200-yard wide path of corn,” Reithman said. “A lot of corn around there had been harvested but there was a also a lot of later planted corn that hadn’t been harvested yet. Then you start thinking about how many nails and screws that are out there that can affect tires and they got 3.5 inches of rain and everything is soaked. The clean up is going to take a while.”

No people were injured, but animals were lost.

“There were 27 cows killed and 30-plus had to be put down due to broken legs and other problems,” Reithman said. “And now they have to find a place for all of these animals. A large amount were loaded on trucks and hauled to market. There were some neighbors that took some in but there was not enough room for that many cows in the area.

“The parlor at the dairy was saved but they have no power. Part of their feed storage was wiped out. Neighbors came and helped wrap the bales. There were pickup trucks and people everywhere coming into help pick up debris and pitch in where ever they could.”

Other livestock facilities in the county were damaged as well.

“Mercer County has a diverse population of livestock and just about every segment was hit,” Reithman said. “The tornado damaged part of a another cattle barn with young calves in it and there were also some grain bins and a grain leg that were affected. There was a hog barn damaged in Mercer County and others across the state line in Indiana. A couple of turkey barns were totally turned to splinters.”

The turkey barns were owned by contract growers for Cooper Farms.

“We had two contract growers who were hit in three barns that were a total loss. One did not have birds in it, thank goodness,” said Cassie Jo Arend with Cooper Farms. “We were very happy no people were hurt. Their safety is our top priority. We had one farmer who was in one of the buildings when the tornado hit. He saw the walls bowing and minutes later it all fell down and a bin landed on top of where he was. He crawled out unscathed. He was fortunate.”

Some of the turkeys were lost, but there was a fairly high survival rate.

“There were quite a few of the birds that made it. The roof fell down and landed on the concrete walls so there were places where we took off the roof and their heads just popped right up and they were fine,” Arend said. “We responded quickly. We had a lot of people from Cooper Farms to make sure the animals were taken care of. We prepare a lot for any crisis. We got trucks in there to load out the birds by lunchtime the next day. There was a lot of prep for anything like this. It wasn’t perfect, but it was handled very well. In this situation we took the birds to processing if they were still healthy because we didn’t have another facility to take them too. They were only 13 weeks old, but they were decent enough size to get them into processing.”

While damage of this magnitude will offer many long term challenges for those affected, it also has a way of bringing out the best in those involved with agriculture.

“The Mercer County area is a true community. Everyone pitched in. It was really neat to see,” Arend said. “When I was out there at the site, there were 20 to 50 people at any point helping out. There were neighboring farms, family friends, anyone and everyone. People were just stopping by to offer help. It is pretty common to see that in agriculture, but it is still pretty neat to see that teamwork and wanting to help everyone out.”



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