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7 June 2010
TOLEDO, Ohio -- A tornado unleashed a "war zone" in northern Ohio, destroying buildings and disrupting ceremonies for children--on what should have been the happiest day of the year.
A seven-mile-long strip southeast of Toledo is now littered with wrecked vehicles, splintered wood and disfigured teddy bears. The tornado ripped the roof off Lake High School's gymnasium, only hours before the graduation ceremony was to begin. Valedictorian Akira Takahashi was to give a stirring speech about meeting the future with optimism and doing good works. But now he will have to do so at a county soup kitchen, listened to only by bums. Many residents of the township lost all of their beer steins and NASCAR collectibles.
Township Police Chief Mark Hummer said the area is replete with vehicles on their side, homes with missing walls, and trash-strewn lawns. Mr. Hummer said, "It's going to take us weeks just to determine what to attribute to the storm."
A school bus was tossed in the air and landed upside down near the football field. More than 10 hours later, its right turn signal was still blinking. "That's a miracle," Mr. Hummer said. "Or would it be a paradox?"
In southeastern Michigan, the storm caused the Fermi 2 nuclear plant to shut down automatically. County information officer Dan Smith said the plant's automatic systems functioned as designed. But it's still pretty scary. And airplanes bound for Detroit Metropolitan Airport had to be diverted during the storm, leaving thousands of travelers unsure what the rest of the day would bring.
The storm was caused by a cold front colliding with warm unstable air, according to Marty Mullen of the National Weather Service. These conditions are routine during the late spring and summer in the midwestern United States. Mr. Mullen explains, "You have to ask why all air isn't stable by now. Somehow there was no stabilization funding for air in the stimulus package." But he held out hope for a federal takeover.
Plumber Samuel Wurzelbacher said he, his wife, and his adult, live-at-home son were enjoying the morning's second beer when the storm struck. Luckily, they took shelter in the bathroom. Now, the front yard is littered with LPs by Loretta Lynn, Mrs. Wurzelbacher's entire Avon collection, and a dozen Ban-Lon golf shirts and leisure suits, still neatly on their coat hangers.
"Worst of all," says Mr. Wurzelbacher, "the day started out so sunny. You just never know."