The National Weather service confirmed a tornado touched down in Medina County on Monday night. But Montville Township residents in the path of the twister say they may not have known it was coming if not for sirens installed less than a year ago.
“Our TV went out so those sirens were a godsend,” said Sherry Overholt, who lives on state Route 3 near Autumn Run Drive with her husband, Mark. “It was so loud, and you knew to get to the basement.”
Sirens in the township sounded three times Monday night after they were activated by the Sheriff’s Office about 9 p.m.
The township bought four sirens for $97,000 and they were installed in July 2013.
When the sirens went off, Sherry grabbed her two cats and headed to the basement, but Mark remained next door in his business, Tiger General, which manufactures equipment for oil and gas drilling.
“The storm was coming in fast, there wasn’t time for him to get over to the house,” she said.
The storm ripped down a fence, uprooted trees and tore the shingles off portions of the Overholts’ home and business. The roof covering a portion of the office at Tiger General was ripped off, causing a large hole in the ceiling.
“The water just came pouring in,” Sherry Overholt said.
A tornado warning was issued for Medina County on Monday night ahead of a severe thunderstorm tracking northeast across Northeast Ohio.
The storm created a funnel cloud south of Medina that touched down briefly near the Overholts’ home on Route 3, the National Weather Service confirmed Friday.
The Overholts contacted the National Weather Service in Cleveland to survey the damage and to determine whether a funnel cloud spotted south of Medina did touch down near their home.
Gary Garnet, a meteorologist who oversees warning coordination, visited the home and business Friday and surveyed the damage. Garnet estimates the wind speed of the tornado that hit Route 3 was about 80 mph, making it within the range of an EF0 tornado, which has 65 mph to 85 mph wind speeds.
The National Weather Service is the only agency allowed to assign official tornado ratings. An EF5 tornado, the most severe, has winds of more than 200 mph.
“It was a very weak touchdown,” Garnet said.
Garnet said his office reviews radar data from the storm to see if the conditions would have been right for a tornado to form, and the data showed the area south and southwest of Medina County definitely had the right conditions in place to create a tornado during Monday night’s storm.
“When I get on the scene, I look for damage on multiple sides of the structure,” Garnet said. “In damage from straight line winds, all the damage is on one side.”
Sherry Overholt had a photo of the storm system that a friend sent via cell phone taken from Poe Road, just north of the Overholts’ home, that shows a funnel cloud forming. Other social media photos from Chippewa Lake also show a funnel cloud in the vicinity, but Garnet said photos of a funnel cloud aren’t enough for meteorologists to confirm a tornado touchdown.
“It’s considered a funnel cloud until it makes contact with the ground. When it touches the ground, it’s a tornado,” he said. “We determine it made contact with the ground when there’s damage on the ground.”
Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on twitter @lorengenson.