MILLBURY, Ohio - A tornado unleashed a "war zone" of destruction in northwest Ohio yesterday, destroying dozens of homes and an emergency-services building as a line of storms killed at least seven people and threatened to do more damage as it hit the Northeast.
Storms collapsed a movietheater roof in Illinois and ripped siding off a building at a Michigan nuclear plant, forcing a shutdown. But most of the worst was reserved for a 100-yard-wide, 7-mile-long strip southeast of Toledo now littered with vehicles, splintered wood and family possessions.
The tornado ripped the roof and back wall off Lake High School's gymnasium about 11 p.m. Saturday, several hours before the graduation ceremony was supposed to begin there. The school board president said one of the victims was the father of the class valedictorian.
Two buses were tossed on their sides and another was thrown about 50 yards, landing on its top near the high school's football field. More than 10 hours later, its right turn signal was still blinking.
Lake Township Police Chief Mark Hummer flew over the damaged area and said at least 50 homes were destroyed and another 50 severely damaged, as well as six commercial buildings. The storm fell over an area of farm fields and light industry.
"It's a war zone," Hummer said. "It's pretty disheartening."
Rescue officials were still searching through homes Sunday and couldn't say whether anyone else was missing, Lake Township Fire Chief Todd Walters said.
The tornado turned a township police and emergency medical services building into a mishmash of 2-by-4 framing and pink insulation. Hummer was talking to a police dispatcher by phone when the storm hit.
"She started saying, 'The building is shaking,' and then another dispatcher came on and said, 'The roof just blew off," he said.
The storm ripped off most of the building's back half and wrapped part of the metal roof around a tree. At least six police vehicles - half the township's fleet - were destroyed, and one car was tossed into the spot where the building once stood.
The storm knocked out emergency services for a short time, and all the emergency dispatchers and 911 operators had to be moved to a nearby town.
"When the people who are supposed to help you are victims of the storm, it does take you a minute to catch your breath," Hummer said.
Those killed included a person outside the police department and a motorist, Hummer said. He said a young child and two other victims were from nearby Millbury, a bedroom community of roughly 1,200 about 10 miles southeast of Toledo. Hummer said two other people died at hospitals but he did not have details.
One victim was the father of Lake High School's valedictorian, said Tim Krugh, president of the school district's board. Krugh said the school has rescheduled graduation for Tuesday evening at a Toledo community college.
Neighbors said that he house of the valedictorian's family was destroyed.