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Shelby Begins Recovery After Weekend Tornado

Aftermath of a tornado that struck Shelby, Ohio, on Sunday night.
Matt Richmond
Aftermath of a tornado that struck Shelby, Ohio, on Sunday night.

Shelby, Ohio is beginning the recovery process after a tornado swept through Richland County on Sunday.

The tornado traveled 17 miles with wind speeds between 120-125 miles an hour, the National Weather Service says. It passed through a commercial section of Shelby first, damaging car dealerships and downing power lines, before making its way northeast through a residential area.

Fully assessing the extent of damage will take several days, said Shelby Fire Chief Mike Thompson on Monday. The storm left much of the area inaccessible to vehicles, and Thompson said clearing roads is one of their top priorities.

“There’s no easy way for us to get to any place directly right now,” Thomson said. “All of our highways have some kind of blockage somewhere.”

Shelby Police reopened OH-39, which was closed due to downed trees and utility poles, on Monday afternoon.

About 10 people experienced minor injuries, while at least 30 homes and business suffered heavy to severe damage. Thompson said he expects the number of damaged properties to grow.  

Shelby City Council member Nathan Martin said some of the most significant financial losses came from damage at two car dealerships on the main commercial strip just south of downtown, while the worst damage to homes happened in the townships outside of the city.  

Even with those losses and minor injuries, Martin said the city was lucky it didn’t experience worse.

“I grew up in rural Nebraska, so I’ve seen the damage these kinds of storms can do and how they can cripple a city to its knees,” Martin said. “To be able to come out on the other side of this in the position that we are, I’m just really thankful today.”

Neighboring communities are helping in the recovery efforts, and Thompson is recommending only necessary travel to limit traffic congestion and allow needed resources in and out of affected areas.

First Presbyterian Church in Shelby served some 300 meals Monday to those affected by the tornado. James Robinson, who volunteered at the church, said people reported the worst damage along Plymouth Springmill Road on the edge of town.

"There's one lady who was here with three of her children, they're staying in a hotel right now," said Robinson. "Their house didn't get a lot of damage but what happened, they had a tree in their yard uproot and the way that it uprooted it just destroyed the foundation of the house."

In his comments on Facebook, Police Chief Combs said some had questioned whether the tornado warning sirens were activated in a timely manner.

"If there are problems, they fall on my shoulders. The police department activates those sirens for the city of Shelby," he said. "If the sirens were not activated soon enough, I take the blame."

NWS says another possible tornado swept through part of Clark County in western Ohio on Sunday, damaging some mobile homes. There were no immediate reports of injuries there.