|Paulding County residents tough aftermath of powerful storm|
|Sunday, July 01, 2012 2:53 PM|
Note: For photos of damage and recovery efforts in the Payne area, see our Facebook page
By JIM LANGHAM • Progress Feature Writer
Friday afternoon's powerful storm that put the county in darkness and sent area residents scrambling for batteries and generators carried wind gusts at hurricane strength according to measurements at the Paulding County Emergency Management office, says EMA director Randy Shaffer.
Shaffer said that just before 3 p.m., he observed a gust of 84 miles per hour at his Paulding County Fairgrounds office. Officials in Payne, which seemingly took the brunt of the onslaught, estimated gusts of 90 miles per hour in that community while observers at Fort Wayne International Airport clocked a gust of 91 miles per hour.
The storm, which only lasted about 15 minutes, damaged and downed hundreds of county trees, ripped off power lines and selectively caused various degrees of structural damage.
On Saturday, Shaffer estimated that 97.5 percent of the county was without power.
"The two major power providers, American Electric Power and Paulding Putnam Coop, stated that it may be three to five days before all customers have their power restored," Shaffer said. "We are advising residents on home oxygen therapy to contact their oxygen provider if they need additional oxygen."
Shaffer said that if the provider cannot be contacted, they may call the Paulding County EMA at 419-399-3500 for non-emergency oxygen needs. If they have an immediate need, they shall call 911.
Shaffer cautioned that those using generators for power should be aware that they can cause carbon monoxide.
"They should never be allowed to run inside of houses or garages and those using them should make sure that the generator is properly installed to prevent back feeding the power lines," said Shaffer.
Shaffer said that the storm first hit in Fort Wayne and caused massive damage to power lines and trees. Then, as it continued through eastern Allen County, it seemingly strengthened more and rotation, which caused the winds to increase' became characteristic . As it approached the Payne area, Shaffer had reports from spotters near the golf course southwest of Payne that there appeared to be a funnel in the area of the course. They then confirmed a funnel aloft as the storm roared into the Payne area and overspread the county.
Shaffer immediately called officials at the National Weather Service in North Webster and reported the observation. Within seconds, they issued a tornado warning for the county.
In Payne, trees toppled, lines were brought down, siding and roofing was pulled from structures and practically ever street in town was blocked or affected. Sirens screamed as officials responded to various emergency situations but fortunately, said Payne fire chief Jamie Mansfield, there were no serious injuries.
Within a short time, Mansfield in conference with Payne Mayor Terry Smith, set up an emergency shelter at the Payne Fire Department, intended to serve emergency situations and those overcome by heat and other emergencies caused by lack of power. The shelter was to remain open around the clock until restoration of electricity.
In addition, Smith conferred with Shaffer, and then ordered a large generator from a firm in Indianapolis to be delivered to the Payne water plant in order to guarantee unbroken water service to the community.
Later on Saturday, Smith met with Tim Yenser of the Payne Marathon and agreed to order another generator to allow that business to go on line to provide gas and supplies for the community. At 6:45 p.m. on Saturday, the generator was delivered and the minimart was opened. In addition, officials also ordered a large delivery of ice from a firm in Fulton County. It arrived late Saturday evening for those needing it to help preserve their refrigerated needs.
In Van Wert County, EMA director Rick McCoy reported a similar situation and said that the entire massive total damage countywide could exceed that of the Nov. 10, 2002 tornado that passed through his county.
McCoy said he had been in touch with officials at the National Weather Service in North Webster who told him that the storm was a classic "rim of fire" storm that forms along the fringes of a massive heat wave and travels sometimes for hundreds of miles, churning a path of destruction. Friday's storm, weather officials said, originated in Illinois and held together continally to Washington, D.C.
"We had that 106 degree reading on Thursday. The core of that heat wave shifted just far enough south on Friday to put us in that vulnerable area," said McCoy. "That could repeat itself at any time over the next few days, but it is so hard to predict. It's quite a price to pay for rain."
In other parts of Paulding County, 20 light poles and line was felled along Ohio 49 between Payne and Antwerp. Shaffer also noted that a semi caught up in a gust of wind rolled off the road near the intersection of Roads 60 and 61. Materials from a fallen building covered Ohio 500 and fields about five miles southwest of Paulding. Just west of Paulding, there was considerable damage to a pole building and another pole building was destroyed in rural area about two miles west of Payne.
All communities in the county are involved in a widespread cleanup of streets and properties.
"We are continuing to work with local EMA, hospital officials and other safety personnel to guarantee the protection and safety of residents of Paulding County," said Shaffer.
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