GREENE COUNTY — Using the words “miserable,” “horrible,” and “tragic,” Gov. Mike DeWine talked about what he saw in Greene County Tuesday afternoon, an area he declared a state of emergency.
DeWine — who lived through the 1974 Xenia tornado as an assistant county prosecutor — visited the area and addressed local media at Soin Medical Center after serious storms moved through the Miami Valley late in the night May 27, uprooting trees, damaging homes and barns, and shattering businesses — leaving plenty for residents to pick up.
One tornado — at least an EF3 with winds up to 140 miles per hour — was confirmed in Beavercreek and Xenia Township by the National Weather Service in Wilmington.
“I don’t pretend to understand what they’ve gone through,” DeWine said of residents who lost homes and other personal property. “The good news is, as far as we know we’ve only had one fatality here in Ohio.”
Greene County commissioners passed a resolution at 9 a.m. Tuesday declaring an emergency to facilitate recovery. Beavercreek Mayor Bob Stone declared a state of emergency early in the morning.
“We will now be able to call upon federal and state resources to help with the clean-up and repair efforts. Our hearts go out to all those who were affected and we are doing everything possible to help things get back to normal,” County Administrator Brandon Huddleson told the Gazette via email.
The emergency proclamation will allow state agencies to provide resources and support beyond their normal authority, under the direction of the Ohio Emergency Management Agency (EMA); and the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) to suspend state purchasing requirements to support recovery efforts and obtain needed resources such as water and generators more quickly and efficiently.
“We can do away with a lot of red tape,” DeWine said. “We can just move a lot quicker.”
Commissioners urged citizens to comply with necessary emergency measures and to cooperate with public officials plus disaster service forces in executing emergency operations plans.
The storm survey is ongoing and NWS officials are still trying to determine if the Greene County storm was the same twister that hit Trotwood in Montgomery County earlier.
Teresa Low, who lives near Kemp and LaGrange roads, said her family lost fences and the basketball hoop pole, belonging to her daughter Alexa, was snapped in half.
Mike and Vicki Sheets had considerable damage on their property but they were unsure if their home was hit directly by the tornado.
“Mike thinks the house would be in worse shape if it were a direct hit,” Vicki said. “But it may well have gone down the middle of the street. We heard several loud thuds and felt some shaking. I’m guessing that’s when the trees hit the house.”
Greene County Sheriff Gene Fischer said he and Beavercreek Police Chief Dennis Evers surveyed the damage via helicopter.
“This morning we were able to see how bad it was … The damage is extreme. There’s a lot more damage than I anticipated,” Fischer said.
The sheriff described what he saw from the air: a Beavercreek house — its natural gas not shut off yet — catch fire and burn. A crumbled cell tower, collapsed electrical towers. Destruction to homes and businesses.
Fischer said he’s received reports of damage in the City of Beavercreek, Beavercreek Township, Xenia Township and Cedarville Township. He also reported noticeable flooding in the northeast area of the county.
The system moved east toward Jamestown and Cedarville, which were also under tornado warnings. The NWS confirmed it planned to survey that area for potential tornadic activity as well.
Fischer said the number one safety precaution for residents now is to pay attention to wires that are down.
“Unless you know for sure a wire is not hot, then just assume any down wire is a hot wire and wait for somebody to come by and give the all clear,” he said. “People need to realize there could be live wires and restoring electric to certain areas may be awhile.”
The sheriff said this storm was a lot bigger than the April 3, 2018 severe weather, which also caused significant damage across communities.
“We’ll recover,” Fischer said.