Tornado tears through center of Greenville

GREENVILLE — Greenville and Darke County once again faced severe weather less than two months after a tornado swept through the county. While some residents are still cleaning up after the first round, more residents are finding themselves doing the same after Tuesday’s storm.

On Wednesday afternoon, the National Weather Service (NWS) office in Wilmington confirmed that damage was caused by a tornado in the area near Greenville. The statement reads, “Damage in Darke County starting west of Greenville and continuing through the city, and then east of the city has been determined to be tornadic.” NWS is continuing its assessment and will provide the strength of the tornado later.

The tornado’s path was a little further south than the one in March, which put the city of Greenville in its path. At approximately 8:15 p.m., tornado sirens began to sound in the city and in the northern part of the county.

Approximately 15 minutes later the storm could be seen heading east, but the damage was done in the city. Debris blocked major state routes and downed power lines knocked out power to a majority of the northern section of Greenville. Power was out from South Broadway in downtown Greenville to Russ Road in the northern part of the city. Even though motorists were warned to stay off the roads, there were plenty of people out gawking at the damage making it difficult for first responders and road crews to begin the process of clearing the roadway.

The storm knocked down the traffic light at the intersection of Walnut and East Main Street, signs were blown out along Wagner Avenue and the sign for Valvoline Oil Changes was toppled. In addition, trees were uprooted or toppled throughout the storm’s path.

The Greenville City Park, Greenville City Schools tennis court and football stadium seemed to be in the direct path of the tornado. An estimate of 75 percent of the trees in the park were damaged or destroyed. When asked about the estimate, Mayor Jeff Whitaker said, “That’s fair to say. If not more.” The press box at Harmon Field was shattered and tossed onto the bleachers and football field. Debris from nearby trees littered the tennis courts and the fence surrounding the courts.

Safety Service Director Ryan Delk, city of Greenville, agreed the city park received a lot of damage with trees falling onto nearly every structure in the park and causing damage. One of the few structures a tree did not fall on was the Marling Band Shell, but that building had damage to the siding.

Garst Museum, located west of the park, experienced minor damage compared to some properties. Two large trees along North Broadway were knocked down onto a couple of the buildings. The original Garst house experienced damage to its roof and the Lowell Thomas Wing of the museum had a tree resting on the corner of that addition. A tree also fell onto the museum’s garage along Wilson Drive. Approximately a dozen trees were damaged or destroyed on the museum grounds.

Numerous homes and cars were damaged by high winds and falling trees. Delk said, “Damage is extensive in the center portion of town from Greenville Cemetery through the park, Shawnee, Ridgeview, Wagner area, around the high school, k-8 building and the neighborhood over there that we call the Hahn addition, the newer addition like Driftwood and Victory Circle, all of that. I’d say what looks the worst, just because of the amount of trees that were there is the park area and the Ridgeview, Shawnee area.” He said most of the damage to homes was because of trees that had fallen and not because of wind. He added the southern part of the city escaped most of the damage with only one tree that was down.

The city did have to send out a Code Red statement after the storm because of the traffic after the storm with people trying to see the damage. “Our street and our fire and police couldn’t get anywhere,” he said.

The park will be off limits to traffic as they continue to clean up that area. He pointed to the number of trees and power lines that are down and not knowing which ones are live wires. Delk said it was unsafe for people to be in the park.

Buildings owned by the county were not unscathed, especially the Garst Avenue Government Complex. Commissioner Matt Aultman said, “Unfortunately, our county once again experienced another tornado. The Garst facility had some roof damage along with significant tree damage that resulted in some vehicle damage and a tree into one of our offices.”

For individuals trying to clean up their properties, Delk pointed out the city will have a limb pick-up available. “Right now, we are telling people to put your brush and limbs out by the curb, but you don’t have to call in,” he said. The limbs and branches that will be accepted need to be no more than approximately three inches in diameter and not longer than 12 feet long. “We have crews from Versailles and Bradford is for sure sending us a crew tomorrow (Thursday). We are going to start focusing on the Hahn addition. Because we are just bombarded in the park area,” he said. Delk was appreciative of all the assistance offered by other communities and townships. They received offers from nearly every community in Darke County as well as from outside the county.

Mayor Whitaker added, “Be patient. There’s going to be a lot of work that needs to be done. Be patient with AES as they get power restored. Stay away from the park. I know it’s a natural inclination to want to see, but they’re trying to get that cleaned up. You see a lot of neighbors helping one another and I’d encourage that.

Residents outside the city also experienced property damage. Barns were damaged or destroyed along a path from State Route 502 west of Greenville east of the city on Children’s Home-Bradford Road.

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