At least four tornadoes reportedly touched down in Athens County Thursday night, leaving in their wake injuries, extensive property damage and general chaos.
Nearly 8,000 people were without power after the storms passed through around 7 p.m. Thursday evening. Emergency personnel worked throughout the night to assist those affected by
the tornadoes. The Athens County Commissioners declared a state of emergency shortly after 10 p.m. and declared the county a disaster area.
“At this point right now we’re just assessing the situation. We have trailers upside down, trees snapped and buildings that have had roofs taken off,” Athens County Sheriff Patrick Kelly said shortly after the storms died down.
Early damage reports included the complete destruction of Autotech Service Center on East State Street in Athens and the press box at Athens High School’s Basil Rutter Field. Bleachers were toppled at the school and trees throughout the region were strewn about. The Athens Messenger also suffered significant damage as portions of its roof were torn off by the violent winds.
Personnel from every emergency service agency in the county responded to the disaster including sheriff’s deputies, highway patrol officers, volunteer firefighters and civilians with emergency training. Kelly said deputies were patrolling streets in The Plains area checking
homes to inquire about injuries and whether there were any missing people. As of midnight, there were no reported deaths. Some of the injuries reported included broken bones, bruises and lacerations.
“It looks like the tornado skimmed the top of The Plains and hit around the McDonald Street area in through Pine Aire (Village). For now, we’re just assessing all the damage.”
Extensive damage reportedly occurred in the Wolfe-Bennett Road area and in The Plains. Among the road closures reported in York Twp. are Matheny Road, Route 691, County Road 4, Spice Lick Road, Kimberly
Road and Carbondale Road.
In The Plains, houses were significantly damaged and some trailers were overturned. At Basil Rutter field, stands that
held soccer fans just minutes before the storm hit were demolished
by high winds. Athens High School was evacuated and emergency personnel set up base in the school’s parking lot. There were also unconfirmed reports that the portions of the school caught fire late in the night.
Kelly said all of the school’s students and athletes were all
“We’re asking that everybody stay away from The Plains and
Wolfe-Bennett Road. They’re hampering our attempts to rescue
people. There are a lot of patrol here,” Kelly said. “We’re
concerned with people being in the area who shouldn’t be. We
have power lines down in The Plains, another reason why we
don’t want people here.”
According to a news release
from County Public Information Officer Ron Lucas, Pine Aire
Village was being evacuated Thursday night due to a gas line
leak. Road crews were working to clear large debris from the roadways. In Nelsonville, 15 homes were reportedly destroyed by the storm. Three
people were transported to medical facilities for treatment of
injuries. According to the release, at least seven people were transported to O’Bleness Memorial Hospital. At least 200 people in the affected areas are in need of shelter.
Weld House on the campus of Ohio University is being used as a shelter for people displaced by the storms. Dean of Students Ryan Lombardi sent an email to parents and families of students saying no tornadoes touched down on campus.