SOUTH SALEM, Ohio (WCMH) – Many homes in Ohio were left without power overnight into Saturday morning, but lack of electricity wasn’t the only concern for one South Salem homeowner.
Bill Rhoads and his wife have lived in South Salem for the last 28 years, and the weather they experienced early Saturday morning was like nothing they had experienced in all that time.
According to preliminary damage reports and radar data, the National Weather Service (NWS) believed a tornado touched down in the South Salem area, severely damaging the Rhoads’ home. NWS later confirmed two tornados touched down in South Salem, as well as a second tornado near Frankfort, and two more near Hillsboro in Highland County. A tornado was also confirmed near Kingston in Pickaway County.
The first tornado in South Salem was an EF0, with an estimated maximum wind speed of 80 miles per hour. The NWS said a child sustained minor injuries from flying glass as a result of the storm. The second was classified as an EF2, with estimated winds of up to 115 miles per hour.
NWS said the first Hillsboro tornado was an EF0, with an estimated maximum wind speed of 80 miles per hour, while the second was an EF1, with an estimated maximum wind speed of 95 miles per hour.
“It’s really hard to believe the damage that a storm can do,” Rhoads said.
He said he’s thankful he and his wife made it out without a scratch. The couple was sleeping when the storm hit, with the NWS issuing the tornado warning for Ross County at 1:29 a.m.
Rhoads did not wish to appear on camera but did thank his neighbors who jumped in immediately to help the 72-year-old couple.
Even as he looks at what was once his home, Rhoads said he can’t even process how his wife got out safely considering the damage and seeing the aftermath of her bed.
“The wind was just pouring,” he said. “Insulation from the roof was everywhere. It was pitch black, could not see a thing. I was worried about my wife; I could hear her hollering. I told her to just stand where she was at. The wind was still blowing but it wasn’t like a tornado.”
The couple said they will be staying with their daughter while figuring out what comes next.
According to Ross County’s Emergency Management Agency Director Paul Minney, out of the entire village of South Salem, the Rhoads’ home was the only one destroyed.
“Had it been as large as what the debris showed in Highland County, in here, we would be cleaning all of the residents, not just the couple,” Minney said.
Minney said that blessing in disguise is reflected in many as they worked together to pick up all the debris in their village.
“I know how blessed this community really is,” he said.
NBC4 meteorologist Ben Gelber said recorded tornados after midnight this late into October in Ohio are rare.