CRIDERSVILLE — With tree limbs and branches strewn throughout yards, roofs torn off of buildings and broken shards of glass on the sidewalk, Cridersville Mayor Lorali Myers walks down the center of the street conversing with residents as she makes her way to the Cridersville Fire Department — the command center after a unconfirmed tornado ripped through the village.
“We will be OK just as long as nobody is hurt,” Myers says assuring one resident along West Main Street as she walks with a quickened pace. “Everyone seems to be OK and that is good.”
As she passes Cridersville Village Council member Stacy Cook, she offers a few consoling words about Cook’s parents, Janice and Ned Myers.
“Tell your parents I’m thinking of them,” the mayor says. “I heard the ceiling in their house came down on them. Tell them I’m praying for them.”
At 5:15 p.m. Wednesday, Myers declared the village in a state of emergency and informed state officials of the declaration after meeting for approximately 30 minutes with Police Chief John Drake and the Fire Chief Rick Miller as well as top county officials. Information initially sent to the state was the village had several buildings with structural damage, at least two members of the community injured and others requiring rescue services.
Auglaize County Emergency Management Agency Director Troy Anderson estimated winds reaching speeds of 85 mph with struck the area at approximately 3 p.m. He said radar images indicted tornadic activity with rotational winds.
He was to update state officials at the end of the day Wednesday.
Shannon Drake, a clerk at the village offices, said she heard the thunderstorm warning and looked out the window and saw really black clouds rolling into the village. After calling her children at her home to make sure they were safe, she peeked out the window again and saw trees blowing over and branches and leaves swirling in the wind.
“I could hardly see anything else but the branches and leaves and debris in a rotating wind,” Drake said. “It really looked like a scene from the movie ‘Twister.’ The front door of the building was making really strange sounds, too, so I positioned myself in a doorway between the office and the hall so I could look out the front door and the windows.
“I then saw the tree limbs on the Myers’ house and I called the police chief to check on them right away.”
Police Chief John Drake said he learned of the thunderstorm warning at 2:15 p.m., which was to last until 2:45 p.m.
“I think it was about 2:50 p.m. when it got real dark, got a little windy and the rain came in real heavy and then at 2:54 I received a call from the clerk that there were trees down across the street from the office at the Myers’,” John Drake said. “In a matter of about 4 minutes, the storm just came through and hammered us with heavy rain and heavy winds. There was a lot of lightning initially and then that stopped and the winds picked up even more.
“We did have an injury — the postman actually got picked up and thrown across the street and he ended being transported by Uniopolis Rescue Squad from Carlisle and Main,” he said, noting the injuries may included some broken bones. “The roof collapsed here at 121 West Main Street (Janice and Ned Myers’ house) and actually the two residents were in a room sitting there and we had to dig them out. We literally cleaned up all the insulation and broke up the ceiling drywall to get them out.”
Wapakoneta Daily News circulation manager Cotie Ibarra was completing a delivery route when he helped the Cridersville couple out of the house after the roof had fell on top of them.
“I just ran into the house and helped lift the roof off of them,” Ibarra said.
Several pieces of insulation had to be tore out before Ibarra, two neighbors, and a Cridersville police officer could get to the couple.
“We got in there and helped them, and then just kind of started running house to house checking on people,” Ibarra said. “It was just crazy.”
Ibarra said he helped Janice Myers get to her walker and another man helped Ned Myers as they guided them to another part of the house that was safe.
“The lady just kept asking where her dogs were,” Ibarra said. “We were able to find two of them. It was crazy.”
Much of the damage from the winds or tornado was limited to a block or two to the north and south of Main Street and National Road.
At the west end of the village, a section of roof at Cridersville United Methodist Church was torn off and the steeple bent toward the east. Tenants to an apartment complex, west of the church, could not enter or leave as a tree fell across the entrance.
Two mobile homes were blown off their foundations in a trailer park south of Community Markets and natural gas lines ruptured.
The roof of a storage building at the Reichelderfer & Graham Lumber company was torn off leaving the lumber at the lower section of the two-story building exposed. Debris from the roof may have damaged windows blocks away including the U.S. Post Office in Cridersville, although other reports have the windows blown out from the unconfirmed tornado.
Alfred Tester, the owner of Reichelderfer & Graham Lumber, stood outside one of the company’s storage buildings and looked through the roof torn off from the storm and blown to the north and east. Three vehicles parked down the center aisle of the building were undisturbed and the lumber in the bottom bays did not move.
Stolly Insurance agent Jon Wade talked with Tester as they examined the damage.
“At least you are OK,” Wade told Tester. “The building will likely have to come down and be replaced, but you are still standing and not hurt.”
Tester said he left the offices when the weather turned ominous to look after his wife, Barbara, so he was not at the business when the storm hit.
“I have never had anything like this happen here,” said Tester, who has worked at the lumber yard for 57 years and owned the business since 1978.
Eleven-year-old Carlyn Pangle and two little boys visited the lumber yard and looked at the damage.
“When the storm hit we were at my house and we looked out and the wind was swirling everywhere,” said Pangle, who lives on West Main Street and was babysitting at the time. “I was just trying to keep the two boys from freaking out and trying to make sure everyone was alright and safe.
“My window in my bedroom got completely shattered and blown out,” she said. “We were lucky because we were in my sister’s room and her room didn’t get touched. It was undisturbed.”
Cridersville Postmaster Andy Johns, who lives in Lima, returned to the post office building on East Main Street. The post office is only open from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
“No one was here thank goodness,” Johns said as he inspects two large plate glass windows that have shards of jagged glass in the pane and shattered glass on the sidewalk as well as a spider break in the front door glass. “I am just waiting now for someone to come and fix or secure the windows and door. I can’t leave until it is secured.”
As the mayor exited the briefing on the damage, Myers sent members of the Cridersville Fire Department along with Uniopolis Fire De-
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partment firefighters to a quadrants of the city to conduct a primary search and by 6 p.m. she instructed them to conduct a secondary search. They inquired if any residents needed assistance as far as any special needs, such as oxygen, water or electricity.
Myers ordered the Cridersville Fire Department to serve as a first aid station.
Sheriff Al Solomon ordered several deputies to serve as law enforcement back-up for the Cridersville police officers in securing buildings, assisting with traffic control and helping with residents.
As far as the Cridersville Firemen’s Jamboree set for Friday and Saturday, the fire chief gave an adamant response in the midst of coordinating his firefighters and mutual aid from Uniopolis.
“Right now, the jamboree is still on,” Miller said. “This will not stop us.”
The scene reminded the mayor of the tornado that hit the village in October 2010, but her concern remained the same.
“My first thoughts were was everybody OK and was everybody safe — that was my first concern,” Myers said. “My second thought was this is a great village and we have wonderful residents and I know it is going to be a long clean-up effort, but I know we are going to endure what we have been through again. The homes were just completed last year from the tornado in October 2010.”
Myers also commented on the resilience of the residents. By 5 p.m., as the black clouds had given way to blue skies, wispy white clouds and bright sunshine the residents began the clean-up.
“This is what Cridersville is about — it is about neighbors joining neighbors, helping in times of need, supporting each other, strangers walking up and asking if they can help,” Myers said sitting on a bench next to the village hall as the sound of chainsaws could be heard and as village crews and residents picked up debris from Main Street. “That is the strength of our village is that we are here for each other. It does not surprise me that people are walking around asking what they can do, walking up with brooms in their hands, strangers picking up limbs and cleaning up the streets.
“This is what Ohio is about, this is what Auglaize County is about, this is what Cridersville is about,” she said, “we all are willing to help each other.”