Ohio police confirm 2 dead in fierce storm

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 and Kentucky 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.

Many injuries: police commander

“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.”

A damaged white car and property following a severe storm in Ohio.
In this image taken from video provided by WSYX, damage from a severe weather system is seen near Indian Lake, in Ohio, where multiple buildings were impacted, late Thursday. (WSYX/The Associated Press)

State officials called on Indiana Task Force One to help with search efforts in Winchester, a town of 4,700 people located nearly 112 kilometres 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. local time.

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

Travel restricted

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, Ohio, 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 120 kilometres 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.

“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.

‘Completely demolished’

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.

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