Residents, county clean up after tornado

Once relatively rare, tornadoes may become more frequent threats.
A deer paused by a fallen tree on Long Run Road near the intersection with Rock Riffle Road. ACI photo by Corinne Colbert

CANAAN TOWNSHIP, Ohio — It’s not unusual to find broken branches and the occasional fallen tree in the yard after a storm. But some Athens County residents are dealing with cleanup on a different scale following Saturday’s tornado.

On Sunday, Aug. 13 the National Weather Service confirmed that an EF1 tornado had skipped across 2.3 miles of Canaan Township on Saturday evening, Aug. 12. Most of the tornado’s path was in unoccupied woodland, leaving homes largely undamaged. 

Athens County resident Theresa Jordan shot this video of a funnel cloud from the Athens County Fairgrounds. Video provided by Theresa Jordan.

“For this particular tornado, there was no distinct destruction path from point A to point B,” said Athens County EMA Director Don Gossel. ”It was patchwork for about 2.33 miles.”


The same storm system spawned tornadoes in Hardin, Marion, Holmes and Belmont counties. Hardest hit was Kenton, in Hardin County, where at least one building was destroyed and several others damaged. Athens County was more fortunate. 

“It was very close to two different structures — I’d say within probably 20 feet — but it did not hit the structures,” Gossel said. “What we saw for the most part was the damage was confined to forest — in the trees — and obviously either direct impact to power lines and poles, or the trees falling and taking down power lines and poles.”

About 110 homes on Long Run and North Coolville Ridge roads lost power, Gossel said.

The tornado first touched down on Angel Ridge Road, in Darlene and Mark Berryman’s backyard. They had been discussing what to have for dinner when the tornado warning alert came.

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“We never did have dinner,” Darlene Berryman said.

The Berrymans had planned to have this pine tree cut down because it was leaning over their driveway and Angel Ridge Road. The tornado took care of it instead. ACI photo by Corinne Colbert

The twister snapped oak and walnut trees at their bases, as well as softer woods like pine and tulip poplar. The only damage to the Berryman’s home, however, was a cracked deck post — most likely struck by their grill, which wound up near the front porch.

ACI photo by Corinne Colbert

Neighbors came out to help them clear the road and their driveway, Darlene Berryman said.

“It’s a testament to Athens,” she said.

About a mile and a half away, Gura Circle Road was littered with debris and lined with trees that lost crowns and branches.  

Heavy forest damage was evident on Long Run Road. A chestnut oak was uprooted; a little farther along, a utility pole had snapped about four feet from the ground but remained upright on its new bottom just off the edge of the road. 

Damage along Long Run Road in Canaan Township. Video by Max Pettit

Nancy Basmajian and Mark Phillips lost dozens of trees around their home on North Coolville Ridge. Like many county property owners, they were still cleaning up branches from a thunderstorm the previous weekend.

“We’ve been chopping and chopping,” Basmajian said. 

ACI photos by Corinne Colbert

On the night of Aug. 12, the couple went into Athens for the Athens Community Arts & Music Festival. They waited out the storm in Glidden Hall — Phillips is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Music — and then continued to the festival. But they became increasingly worried as “we started hearing from people checking on each other,” Basmajian said, and left for home.

“When we got within 30 yards of the driveway, we saw the sign saying ‘Danger — road closed — wires down,’” Basmajian said. They moved the barrier to reach their driveway, with downed power lines just a few yards beyond.

Basmajian and Phillips still don’t know the full extent of the damage, because a large fallen tree blocks their access to part of the property.

ACI photo by Corinne Colbert

“We don’t even know because we can’t get through,” Basmajian said.

In a press release on Tuesday, Athens County Auditor Jill Davidson reminded property owners of real estate and manufactured homes who saw damage from the storm that they may claim a reduction in the taxable value of their property.

“With the wind damage and storms that occurred recently, property owners deserve the relief that this law provides,” the release stated. “My staff will be available to assist applicants in completing the form properly so they can get the reduction they are entitled to.”

Applications can be downloaded from the county auditor’s website and must be completed promptly. Relevant forms include the Application for Valuation Deduction for Destroyed or Damaged Real Property and the Application for Tax Refund or Waiver for Destroyed or Damaged Manufactured Homes.

The new normal?

According to the National Weather Service, Saturday’s twister was the seventh tornado ever documented in Athens County, and the first since 2018, when a weak tornado caused property and tree damage along Cullison and Kimberly roads.

The relative rarity of tornadoes in the county’s history can make people complacent — but folks should be prepared for funnel clouds to threaten more often, Gossel said 

“Climatically — due to climate change — this region is seeing increased potential,” he said, adding that residents should respond quickly to tornado warnings.

Rather than wait for tornado sirens to go off, Gossel recommends that county residents sign up for the Athens County EMA’s HyperReach alerts, which send free emergency notifications by text or smartphone app.

“The only weather alert you’ll get from the system independently is a tornado warning alert,” Gossel said. 

In fact, Gossel’s first news of the tornado warning was from a HyperReach alert. 

“I was actually doing a fundraising activity for Boy Scouts and was like, ‘Well, wait a minute, I gotta look at work,’” he said. 

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