Storm rips through Lake County
LAKE COUNTY — Severe weather unleashed its wrath throughout Lake County on Tuesday evening, leaving paths of destruction, particularly in the Baldwin area.
Road crews and emergency personnel already were addressing damage from storms earlier in the week when a huge storm hit after 7 p.m. — putting life on hold for many in the county who are without power and are blocked in by fallen trees and downed power lines due to severe winds.
Jim Andelhor, director for Lake County Central Dispatch, said emergency personnel are doing what they can to assist with the local disaster.
“Most of the main thoroughfares are opened up, and the Lake County Road Commission is working on getting secondary roads open,” he said, adding that many of the roadways were blocked by trees and had downed power lines. “Cleanup is going to be a long process. The fire departments are open, and so is the school, for people to take shelter. Currently, Chase and Bristol are the only places where people can gas up their vehicles.”
Andelhor said a meteorologist team was going to determine if the damage in Baldwin was caused by a tornado, but the information wasn’t confirmed before the Star went to press.
In the village of Baldwin, there are entire blocks with many fallen trees and streets are blocked with downed power lines. Large items are strewn on sidewalks, and siding and other materials were ripped from buildings. Towering trees crashed into buildings and sliced into vehicles.
People were driving around taking pictures and gazing at what seemed like a surreal scene.
“Baldwin is a disaster,” said Baldwin Fire Chief Jeremy Anderson. “It is at least going to be a couple weeks before everything is cleaned up.”
Webber Township also was a disaster, officials said.
“Webber Township is in shambles,” said Webber Township Fire Chief Aaron Summers. “I don’t think the destruction is quite as bad as the village of Baldwin, but there are downed power lines everywhere and many trees down.”
Pleasant Plains Township officials and fire department members were saddened to learn their new fire department building, which was getting closer to completion, was completely destroyed by wind damage.
“I can honestly say this is a huge sadness right now,” stated Pleasant Plains Township Supervisor Tammy Ghent on the township’s Facebook page.
On Wednesday morning, what would be an ordinary day of learning at Baldwin Community Schools, was disrupted. Classes were canceled and the school building turned into an evacuation center with 85 people taking shelter by Wednesday afternoon.
The Webber Township Hall also turned into an evacuation center, along with other fire stations in the county, as local residents dealt with power outages and widespread damage. Residents from Oakwood Manor and Kahil Apartments were evacuated due to structural damage and power outages.
“There are 85 people taking shelter at the school,” said Detective Sgt. Harold Nichols, who was stationed at the school. “We will have this as an evacuation center for at least 48 hours or more. The Red Cross, Pleasant Plains Fire Department and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office are helping to manage everything at the shelter, along with multiple school personnel. Sheriff reserve units also are being called in.”
School will be out of session until further notice. The Friday high school football game, which was to be a home game, will be played at Brethren High School.
A generator was humming at the Webber Township Hall since Tuesday night.
“Some of the people from the area are coming to the school and here,” said Webber Township Supervisor Ernie Wogatzke, emergency manager for Webber Township. “The Red Cross is bringing blankets and other supplies, and the Salvation Army is helping with meals and food here and at the school.”
Kevin Smith, who lives across the street from the township hall, brought in DVDs to entertain kids and others taking shelter at the hall.
Many businesses throughout the county are shut down without power. People drove from miles around to fuel up at the gas station in Chase, with cars lined up at the pumps to the highway on Wednesday morning.
Jane Allison, owner of the Baldwin Lumber Yard, opened her doors so people could get supplies to begin repairing damage.
“We are going to be open all weekend, Saturday and Sunday, so people needing supplies can get them. I want to help them out,” she said.
The area near St. Ann’s Church and St. Ann’s Senior Center was hit particularly hard. Despite being surrounded by many fallen trees and other debris, the Bread of Life Food Pantry, on the church property, still handed out food to needy families as they do every Wednesday evening.
“We had a few shoppers come in for food — shopping by candlelight,” said pantry member Lynne Mills. “They are selecting things they can cook on grills and we are telling them how to light a stove with electronic emissions. People are mostly picking out fresh foods which can be eaten right away. I am a bit worried about the frozen food. Lake Shore Pantry in Ludington is trying to store frozen food for us so we don’t lose everything. We are trying to get a generator. At St. Ann’s Senior Center, they are trying to use up what food they can before it goes bad.”
Other community members and businesses pulled together to help clean up the damage.
Shawn Munson, of Munson’s Inc., a tree removal service, along with a crew of helpers, cleared trees and brush at the St. Ann’s Senior Center and other places throughout town.
“I am volunteering my services to help the community out,” he said, adding Joe Got Stump, another local business, also helped clean up the site at the senior center.
Longtime vacationer Carolyn Kelley said she has never seen anything like this since she has been coming to the Baldwin area since childhood.
“It is devastating to see so many scenes from childhood memories ruined in one storm. I am thankful no one was hurt,” she said, adding how she drove by her ancestor’s home on Denmark and 7th Street, the old Duffing homestead, to see trees down all around it, but the house itself was fine. “There is devastation all around the house, but it is still around and I see that as a miracle.”