Police in Ohio confirm 2 dead from storm system that damaged homes and businesses

Police in Ohio confirm 2 dead from storm system that damaged homes and businesses

In this image taken from video provided by WSYX, damage from a severe weather system is seen in Lakeview, Ohio, late Thursday, March 14, 2024.

WSYX via AP

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WSYX via AP

In this image taken from video provided by WSYX, damage from a severe weather system is seen in Lakeview, Ohio, late Thursday, March 14, 2024.

WSYX via AP

WINCHESTER, Ind. — Police in Ohio confirmed two deaths resulting from a fierce storm system that unleashed suspected twisters and damaged homes and businesses in parts of Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana on Thursday.

Chief Deputy Joe Kopus of the Logan County Sheriff’s Office in Bellefontaine, Ohio, confirmed the fatalities in an email to The Associated Press early Friday. He said there likely would be more fatalities discovered, noting there was heavy damage in Lakeview, Midway, Orchard Island and Russells Point.

The Indiana State Police said there are “many significant injuries” after a tornado tore through the community of Winchester.

“There have been many, many significant injuries, but I don’t know the number. I don’t know where they are. I don’t know what those injuries are,” Indiana State Police Superintendent Douglas Carter told reporters just before midnight Thursday. “There’s a lot that we don’t know yet.”

Earlier in the night, state police said they were investigating reports of deaths but at the news conference Carter said there were “no known fatalities.”

State officials called on Indiana Task Force One to help with search efforts in Winchester, a town of 4,700 people located nearly 70 miles (112 kilometers) northeast of Indianapolis, according to a post by the rescue team on X. The team is one of 28 Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency-sponsored Urban Search and Rescue teams in the United States.

“I’m shaken; it’s overwhelming,” Winchester Mayor Bob McCoy said. “I heard what sounded like a train and then I started hearing sirens.”

He and his wife were hunkered in a closet during the twister, which hit about 8 p.m.

“I’ve never heard that sound before; I don’t want to hear it again,” McCoy said.

The suspected tornado damaged a Walmart store and a Taco Bell in Winchester, Randolph County Sheriff Art Moystner told FOX59/CBS4. Travel throughout the county is restricted to emergency management workers only, he said.

To the west of Winchester, in Delaware County, emergency management officials said initial assessments suggested up to half of the structures in the small town of Selma were damaged by a possible tornado.

“We are relieved to report that only minor injuries have been reported thus far, with one individual transported to the hospital for treatment,” the Delaware County Emergency Management Agency said in a news release. About 750 people live in Selma.

At about the same time as the tornado hit Winchester, another suspected twister touched down about 75 miles (120 miles) to the east in Logan County, Ohio. The tornado hit near the southern end of Indian Lake, impacting the villages of Lakeview and Russells Point, county spokesperson Sheri Timmers said.

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“As far as we know, we have lots of injuries. We don’t know the extent of the injuries,” Timmers said. “An RV park was impacted.”

Multiple buildings in the Indian Lake area were damaged, but the full extent of the destruction was still being assessed as emergency crews searched the area, Timmers said.

Amber Fagan, president and chief executive of the Indian Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, said Lakeview was “completely demolished,” with homes, campgrounds and a laundromat hard-hit by the tornado.

“There’s places burning,” she said. “There’s power lines through people’s windows.”

A shelter was opened for displaced people.

In Ohio’s Huron County, emergency management officials posted on Facebook that there was a “confirmed large and extremely dangerous tornado” near Plymouth, some 75 miles (120 kilometers) northeast of Indian Lake.

Earlier, storms damaged homes and trailers in the Ohio River communities of Hanover and Lamb in Indiana.

The Ohio governor’s office said they did not have any information about fatalities in the state.

Jefferson County Sheriff Ben Flint said storms destroyed three or four single-family homes and four or five other structures and demolished several uninhabited campers along the river.

“We were fortunate that no one was injured,” Flint told the AP in a telephone interview.

Sgt. Stephen Wheeles of the Indiana State Police earlier said another suspected tornado struck Jefferson County, damaging several homes and downing trees and power lines.

He posted photos on X showing one home with its roof torn off and another missing roof shingles as well as an image of a baseball-sized hailstone.

Around 2,000 Duke Energy customers in Hanover lost power at one point during the storms, the company reported.

In Kentucky, Trimble County Emergency Management Director Andrew Stark said the storms damaged at least 50 structures, including homes.

“We have a whole bunch of damage,” Stark told the Courier Journal of Louisville.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear issued a statement saying a tornado touched down along the Indiana state border in Gallatin and Trimble counties and there were reports of a couple of minor injuries. He urged Kentuckians to stay aware of the weather as more storms were expected across the state Thursday evening and overnight.

“It does appear that there is some really significant damage, especially to the town of Milton in Trimble County,” Beshear said. “We think there are over 100 structures that are potentially damaged.”

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The state’s emergency operations center was activated to coordinate storm response, Beshear said.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb posted on Facebook Thursday night that the Indiana Department of Homeland Security is monitoring the current weather situation.

“Severe weather has impacted Hoosiers all across the state, and we have emergency response personnel in the impacted areas,” he wrote.

The Indiana Department of Homeland Security posted on Facebook that their staff are on scene in Randolph County, home to Winchester, working with locals and that the State Emergency Operations Center has been activated to an enhanced staffing level to respond to the storm.

A Facebook post on the Winchester Community High School page said all the schools in that school district would be closed on Friday. Another post said the high school had electricity and was open for emergency use for people who “need somewhere warm and dry.”

Large pieces of hail also was reported in parts of the St. Louis area Thursday afternoon.

There were unconfirmed reports of tornadoes in Jefferson County, Missouri, and Monroe County, Illinois, but no immediate reports of damage.

Severe weather was possible into Thursday night from northeast Texas to Indiana and Ohio, the National Weather Service said on X.

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