Storming Back: Bad weather frightens familyWritten by Brandi Barhite | Community Ombudsman | firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s note: Toledo Free Press will follow the Blank family of Millbury for the next year as they rebuild their lives after a June 5 tornado destroyed their Main Street home.
Whenever the weather gets bad, Julie Blank fears another tragedy will strike.
It is easy to understand, considering her family lost their home to the June 5 tornado, which left destruction and death throughout Northwest Ohio, particularly in her Millbury neighborhood.
Julie said ever since that fateful night, she is even more sensitive to weather warnings. It is only mildly comforting thinking that “this cannot happen to me twice,” she said.
“I have always been afraid of storms all of my life,” Julie said. “I don’t like thunderstorms. I don’t like high winds, even before the tornado.”
Julie experienced some of the worst anxiety since the tornado when meteorologists called for 70 mph winds Oct. 26.
Although that storm “worked its way around,” she said, it led to an anxious afternoon for Julie. She was so nervous that she sought shelter in a friend’s basement, which was a half mile away.
“I got myself prepared; I had a plan of action,” she said.
Julie said the family’s temporary home in an Oregon condo does not have a basement, so she had arranged for her family to seek shelter at this friend’s basement whenever there is severe weather. But when the time came for her to go in the basement Oct. 26, her friend wasn’t home. Sympathetic to her nervousness, the friend told Julie how she could get in.
The friend said, ‘Here is my garage code — you can go and get in,’ so I left and went in, she said.
Julie was also worried about her son, Casey, a sophomore at the temporary Lake High School in Northwood. The high school in Millbury was also destroyed in the June 5 tornado, although school was not in session at the time. Of the six people who died in the tornado, one was a Lake alumna.
Julie texted her son who reassured her that everything was fine. She also told him she was heading to the friend’s basement.
“I said, ‘Are you safe?’ and he said, ‘Yeah, Why?’ I said, ‘Tornado warning in Lucas County.” ”
Julie said the students aren’t supposed to check their cell phones at school, but it was comforting. Julie, Casey and her husband, Ed, were huddled in the basement when their house was blown away by the tornado. Three of their next-door neighbors were killed.
Lake Local Schools Superintendent Jim Witt said that during the storm, students were allowed to go home if their parents came to school, signed them out and took them home.
“We will most likely continue to be sensitive to these issues,” Witt said.
The Blanks were also nervous June 23 when another round of storms hit Northwest Ohio. At that time, they were staying with family friends in Perrysburg Township who had a basement.