SHELBY – In the wake of a confirmed tornado in the city of Shelby on Sunday, the work now begins on picking up the pieces.
According to multiple national outlets, the National Weather Service confirmed a tornado touched down in Shelby at approximately 5 p.m. on Sunday. WCMH-TV out of Columbus reported the tornado likely was an EF-2, which means it had winds between 111 and 135 mph.
North Central State College's Kehoe Center announced that it is closed until noon on Monday, April 15 – the Kehoe Center only. All classes scheduled at Kehoe before noon are canceled. All other locations are open and classes will run as scheduled.
The damage was particularly apparent along a stretch of State Route 39 inside Shelby city limits. Shelby Police Chief Lance Combs estimated about 30 structures in total were damaged, but the main focal point of the storm was a swath along SR-39 including Rocket Chevrolet, Packing Insights Inc., Donley Ford, Discount Drug Mart, and Advanced Auto Parts.
"I'm not an insurance guy but I would say Rocket, their building is a total loss," Combs said. "It's gone."
Despite extensive structural damages, Shelby safety forces reported minimal injuries. Combs and Shelby Fire Chief Mike Thompson each estimated between 5 and 10 injuries occurred, one was the result of a rollover crash after a vehicle was caught in the tornado's path.
"You can see the path (the tornado took)," Combs said. "It's very clear."
As of approximately 11:30 p.m. on Sunday, Christina Thompson, Media Relations and Communications Senior Consultant for OhioHealth Mansfield and Shelby Hospitals, said Shelby and Mansfield Hospitals received seven patients related to the storm. Five arrived in fair condition, one arrived in serious condition and one in critical condition.
Thompson also noted OhioHealth Shelby Hospital operated on generator power for a few hours Sunday, and was still accepting patients during that time.
"We got really lucky," Combs said. "It went through businesses, and it was a Sunday so no one was there."
Combs noted the tornado sirens in Shelby, controlled by the Shelby Police Department, were not deployed until approximately 3 minutes before the tornado touched down. This is because the department does not deploy tornado sirens during general warnings for Richland County.
"Unless we know it's for Shelby, we don't set the sirens off," Combs said. "We don't want people to become complacent; if there's a tornado in Lucas, it makes no sense to set the sirens off (here).
"There was some concern the sirens didn't go off early enough, but at that time it was just a general warning, and we didn't know there was an imminent tornado in Shelby," he continued. "We try to be judicious in using them."
Most of the city of Shelby was without power on Sunday from approximately 5 to 8 p.m. as the storm caused numerous downed power lines. Combs credited the work of the Shelby Municipal Utilities department for restoring power to most of the city by Sunday evening.
"Essentially, they disconnected and isolated the section of utilities (along SR-39) and powered everything else back up," Combs said.
"It's probably going to be another two to three days of work for them to put those utility poles back up; right now the goal is to get the roadway open so traffic can pass through and they can work on fixing utilities."
Shelby Municipal Utilites Director John Ensman said at approximately 10:30 p.m. on Sunday that 98 percent of the power in Shelby had been restored. He said approximately 12 homes and all of the businesses south of George Hawk Road are still without power. All of the damage was isolated to the south side of town, and approximately 30 poles were damaged.
"Crews are out working on Mansfield Avenue to remove the poles and wires from the road," Ensman said. "The rebuilding will start at sun-up, and we are expecting the rebuild to take 24 to 48 hours. Municipal mutual aid from the cities of Galion and Oberlin will be assisting with the rebuild."
As of Sunday evening, all roads from Mickey Road to the southern side of Donely Ford - as well as numerous side roads, Technology Parkway and Wareham Road - were still blocked off because of downed power lines. Combs said the goal was to have two lanes of SR 39 open by 9 a.m. Monday morning.
Numerous law enforcement agencies responded to Shelby on Sunday to assist in recovery after the storm, including agencies from Mansfield, Lexington, Ontario and Greenwich. The Richland County Sheriff's Office and the Ohio State Highway Patrol also responded.
In addition, a number of local businesses and organizations sprang into action to help those in need on Sunday.
"We are devastated to hear of the tornado damage that has affected so many families in Shelby today," said the Shelby YMCA on its Facebook page. "The Y has power and will open at 5 a.m. tomorrow morning, April 15. If you need a hot shower or community, please come in. All are welcome free of charge."
Facebook user Adam Thornton posted on Sunday night, "Mad respect to ACE Hardware in Shelby. Normally closed today, they opened tonight to help contractors get what is needed to hep tonight. This is community."
Readers are encouraged to share more photos and stories of recovery in Shelby. Please send your stories to Engagement & Solutions Editor, and Shelby resident, Brittany Schock at email@example.com.