ST. MARYS — Felled trees, downed power lines and widespread power outages kept crews busy Friday night as a severe thunderstorm swept across the region — leaving a path of destruction in its wake.
“Right now we are driving around and taking assessments,” St. Marys Police Chief Greg Foxhoven said Friday night. “There’s a lot of damage — there’s homes with trees on roofs, trees on cars and limbs and branches everywhere.”
Foxhoven said a home on Royal Oak sustained damage from a fallen tree. Downed power lines also posed initial safety risks as crews hurried to fix the infrastructure.
“Those have been secured,” Foxhoven said. “I think a lot of the town should be back on and if they aren’t they should be soon.”
Power outages stretched from Wapakoneta and St. Marys to Minster and New Bremen as police officers directed traffic to keep motorists safe at intersections. In St. Marys, members of the general services department placed four-way stop signs at major intersections while crews rushed to restore power — section by section.
“The four-way stops are important,” Foxhoven said. “It’s frustrating to see when the lights are out, it seems like people forget to treat it like a four-way stop — especially with the emergency vehicles out. It’s just really important for people to pay attention at the intersections.”
Foxhoven said he had no reports of injuries associated with the storm.
St. Marys Mayor Pat McGowan said first responders did encounter a problem during the clean up from the storm.
“It’s good when people call to report downed power lines,” McGowan said. “But they flooded our switchboards asking when the power was going to be back on and that hinders the operations at the police department.”
Trees and limbs into power lines caused headaches for crews. Throughout the course of the storm, limbs fell onto houses and trees snapped at their bases. The winds also toppled power poles in St. Marys. Business signs along Celina Road were thrown around and a utility shed was mangled and ended up in the old Parker Hannifin parking lot.
Auglaize County EMA Director Troy Anderson said he measured sustained winds 82 mph with gusts of 90 mph.
“I see a lot of wind damage and we are looking at doing assessments,” Anderson told The Evening Leader. “As of 5:40 p.m., DP&L is reporting it has 1,708 customers in Auglaize County alone without power. I am working on getting numbers from Midwest Electric.”
Anderson said numerous barns across the county collapsed. Roofs lost shingles and fallen trees caused the closure of some roads in the area.
“The Liette farm on 703 had one building go down,” Anderson said. “There was a pontoon boat blown over on the southside of the lake that ended up in the road. Ohio 364, south of St. Marys, near Otterbein, is closed at this time due to trees in the road.”
Anderson said he is looking for any photos of storm damage as well as evidence of possible tornadoes.
“Someone had photos on a phone of funnels — one was on I-75 near mile marker 109 and another was on U.S. 33,” Anderson said. “If anyone has copies, they can post them on my Auglaize County EMA Facebook page. I need those to confirm what we had. We had a lot of wind damage and I’m not saying it was a tornado. Without those photos, all I can say now is we had a wind event.”
The storm also caused extensive damage at Grand Lake St. Marys State Park.
“There was very little, if any, damage at the campgrounds,” State Park Manager Brian Miller told The Evening Leader. “I’ve had a full crew working in the campgrounds as soon as it ended. We haven’t started on East Bank Road and it’s closed at this point.”
Miller said downed trees and limbs are blocking portions of the road. He expected the road to be cleared sometime Saturday.
The storm also caused a delay in the New Knoxville Independence Day Celebration. Organizers canceled Friday’s slate of activities. However, activities will resume, as scheduled, Saturday. The festival also will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
“Some tents got blown around and some trees are down, but nothing significant,” Southwestern Auglaize County Chamber of Commerce Director Scott Frey said. “People should come out Saturday and Sunday and enjoy the fun.”