Residents Reflect on Derecho Three Years Later


I remember I was shopping in a department store. Suddenly the lights and air conditioning went off, and the roof started to leak. There was chaos at the check-out counters. But that was nothing, compared to what was going on in the community of Somerton. 

In Somerton, Ohio, Laurie Price and her daughter saw the storm move in. “She thought it looked like a funnel. To me it just looked like a bad, bad storm,” said Price.

Roy Clark remembers the derecho vividly. “I saw a semi who had just been laid over on its side for no reason at all,” he recalls. 

Trees were sheered off and toppled everywhere–many landing on power lines, but it was the Somerton United Methodist Church, established in 1873 that took the brunt of the storm’s fury.

“It just lifted the roof up off our church and it landed in the middle of 800,” said Price.

“The roof was laying in the middle of 800 and all traffic was stopped,” stated Clark.

The following week was miserable. Hot, muggy and power outages.

“One side of Somerton had power, the other side had no power. Of course I was on the side with no power,” recalled Price

“But it was hot, muggy, with the church being damaged, the people was kind of worried, solemn and stuff, what are we gonna do,” said Clark.

At the Belmont County EMA, the phone rang with urgent requests for 15 days straight. The call logs tell the story. A nursing home without air conditioning or any way to cook. Prison crews offering to pick up debris. And everyone in need of ice, water and generators.

“Because of the extreme heat, they needed a place to get cool. So we did set up temporary shelters, most of them in churches,” recalls Becky Horne.

But it was churches with their steep roofs and tall bell towers, that took hits all over eastern Ohio. In Somerton, they tried to save theirs, but eventually learned it was beyond repair.

So they raised money, and did much of the work themselves and today–three years later, they are about to open their new church. So they don’t want to hear about this being the prime season for a derecho.

“I would not want to see another derecho,” said Clark, “but I believe this one would stand it.”

“I’m glad it’s over with,” said Price.

Here’s how one person described the Derecho that day.

“Wind coming from all directions, rain coming down hard, the sky dark as night, and trees falling everywhere.”

It’s not something we want to re-live, but we do need to be weather-aware.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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