Storms produced record rainfall and at least four tornadoes in the region Sunday, causing major damage to businesses and farms in Mercer County, where residents continued to pick up debris on Monday.
“I’ve seen a lot of hard-hit areas with storms, even as far as having relatives down in the hurricanes,” Celina Mayor Jeffrey Hazel said. “I can say this is pretty tremendous damage in this area.”
Three tornadoes in Mercer County were each estimated by the National Weather Service as EF2, meaning wind speeds for each reached between 111 to 135 miles per hour. Eight people were treated for non-life threatening injuries, and multiple businesses were damaged.
Another tornado, an EF1, was confirmed in South Vienna in Clark County. An EF1 tornado can have wind speeds of between 86 to 110 miles per hour.
The rainfall total of 3.57 inches, recorded at the Dayton International Airport, was the most on one day in more than 15 years, since September 2002, and the fifth-highest total since 1948, according to data from the National Centers for Environmental Information.
“This breaks the previous daily record rainfall total of 2.18 inches set in 1948,” said Storm Center 7 Meteorologist McCall Vrydaghs. “More impressive is the annual precipitation total of 47.78 inches, which is more than a foot above normal for the year so far.”
The damage also extended into Greene County, where flood waters damaged the famed Christmas lights in Clifton, and parts of Clark County and Montgomery County, including Huber Heights, where flooding encroached into basements and closed Interstate 70 in both directions between Ohio 235 and Interstate 675 due to high water.
The hardest hit area was Mercer County, about an hour north of Dayton.
“You can see a path from St. Anthony all the way and across (Ohio) 29 and Wabash,” said Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey during an afternoon press conference. “We had several farms destroyed, turkey barns, dairy farms and hog barns and I think a couple of chicken barns throughout that area of the county.”
Ohio State Highway Patrol sent troopers to the county to help with traffic and secure damaged areas. Grey said things were “starting to return to normal other than the clean up.”
“The nice thing about being in a small county like this is all of the farmers are coming in with their equipment, helping their neighbors get things cleaned up,” the sheriff said.
One report said more than 40 farmers helped a Mercer County family rescue nearly 400 cows from a barn near the Ohio/Indiana state line. The cattle barn near Padua was flatted by strong winds, and as many as 30 of the cows died.
The barn’s owner said the large structure built last year is a complete loss.
In Celina, the Mercer County seat, about 40 businesses remained without power Monday, even as electricity was returned to about 90 percent of the town of about 10,400 people.
Dunham’s Sports on Havemann Road was heavily damaged in the storm. Employee Zach Short said he had to take cover in the employee break room during the storm.
“No one was really screaming, they were pretty calm,” Short said, noting his shock when he emerged and saw the destruction outside. “Glad we’re still alive. Couldn’t really fathom it.”
In South Vienna, multiple neighbors in the village said they heard a train-like whistle during the storm Sunday evening and then saw multiple trees down, fences damaged and debris blown around.
“You just don’t think you’re going to experience that,” said Rachel Roe, who hid in her basement with her 7-month-old when she heard the wind pick up.
“We did have some roof damage,” she said. “We’ve lost some shingles. We had a little bit of flooding to our garage.”
In Greene County, flood waters significantly damaged The Legendary Lights of Clifton Mill Christmas light display, leaving the owners scrambling to fix the damage before Black Friday, when the display is scheduled to open.
“We only have two weeks,” said owner Anthony Satariano. “We will do whatever it takes … the damage is pretty significant.”
Satariano said it appeared the water levels were still rising Monday and he’s concerned that additional damage is possible before the water recedes. The damage to the light display is similar in nature to another incident in 2008.
Employees at Alpha Performance, a Beavercreek Twp. auto business, were cleaning up after flood waters rushed into the shop on Dayton Xenia Road. Owner Neil Marshall said the business was built on a flood plain in 1980.
“We’re used to the area and the problems it has,” Marshall said. “This building can easily handle about three feet of water.”
Elsewhere, a National Weather Service team was expected to conduct a storm survey Monday in Brown County, east of Cincinnati. Some flooding was also reported in Butler County.
Today’s forecast calls for a mostly cloudy and chilly morning with temperatures climbing into and through the 40s. A wave of showers will pass south of Dayton in the morning. Some counties may see showers early in the day. The day will be cooler than normal with highs around 50 degrees.
Sunshine is forecast to return Wednesday, but conditions will remain chilly with highs in the upper 40s. Some morning clouds will give way to mostly sunny skies. Temperatures are expected to remain below 50 degrees for the remainder of the workweek.
News Center 7 reporters Steve Baker, Sean Cudahy, Eric Elwell, Gabrielle Enright, McCall Vrydaghs and the Breaking News Team contributed reporting.