'Lakeview's gone.' Indian Lake community devastated by EF-3 tornado, but resilient

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Mar. 15—Areas around Indian Lake in Logan County — including Lakeview, Russells Point and the Midway area between them — were devastated by a powerful tornado Thursday night, causing three confirmed deaths and multiple injuries.

Gov. Mike DeWine said at a press conference Friday he feels for those impacted by the tornado, but he quickly noted seeing an incredible community response, particularly with a large number of donations like those at Indian Lake High School.

"What we see in this gym I think is symbolic — and real — of the spirit of the people in this part of Ohio," DeWine said. "... I'm always amazed by the resilience of the people in the state of Ohio."

The Logan County Emergency Management Agency reported the storms directly hit multiple structures in the Indian Lake area, causing injuries and extensive damage. DeWine said at least 20 people have gone to hospitals for injuries caused by tornadoes across the state Thursday night.

Logan County Sheriff Randall Dodds said everyone is accounted for.

An EF-3 tornado was confirmed in Lakeview in Logan County, according to the NWS. This is the same tornado responsible for damage in the Orchard Island area of Russells Point.

EF-3 tornado has windspeeds of 136-165 mph and are considered strong.

An EF-2 tornado hit Clark County east of Springfield on Feb. 28, destroying or damaging more than 100 homes.

All major roads near Lakeview and Russells Point were closed, and the public is asked to stay away from the area unless asked to come by county officials.

Ohio EMA Executive Director Sima Merick said at the press conference damage is being assessed to determine what kind of aid the community can receive and if an emergency declaration is warranted.

DeWine, Lt. Gov. John Husted and others visited the areas hit by the storm.

"What we saw was devastation," Husted said, but he emphasized the community's resilience.

Holley Milroy, who lives near downtown Lakeview, said she heard the first tornado before it hit and she went outside thinking it wouldn't hit her area. She then went back inside before deciding to look outside again.

"I looked up and you could see it, just like a big black cloud and you could see shingles and stuff moving, just like you see on TV," Milroy said. "I turned around and ran into my closet and then it hit and ... I was texting with people and I said 'I think it's over' because then I heard hail and I stepped out and I heard it again ... so I ran back in and I thought, 'It's not over yet.'"

Milroy said some homes in her neighborhood were flattened, and she believes the brick structure of her home saved hers. She said one street sign by her house was bent at a 90 degree angle from the winds.

Christina Smayda and boyfriend Mike Hudkins' Lakeview home sustained minor damage in the storm. Hudkins said the winds "sounded like a freight train," something he never wants to hear again.

"Lakeview's gone," he said.

Milroy said she is overwhelmed by the support of the community. She, along with many others, went to Indian Lake High School on Friday to access power and food. She also received a portable power station that will allow her to plug in her devices and warm up with a space heater when it gets cold since she has no power.

Amanda Strayer, a special education teacher at Indian Lake High School who went to the school to help those impacted, said the community has come together to help and many people have brought essential items including clothing, food and blankets. She said the next step is distributing items to those who cannot make it to the school, once first responders conclude search and rescue operations.

Cierra Claybaugh, whose husband is a teacher at the school, showed up to help out however possible. Her father had some damage at Russells Point.

Ohio Sen. Rob McColley (OH-1) said he has seen what the school calls "the lake effect" with the community rallying together to support those in need.

The Indian Lake area attracts thousands of visitors annually for boating, swimming, fishing and other outdoor activities.

State Rep. Jon Cross said at the press conference the state and community will work to get the community back on its feet as soon as possible, especially since summer is approaching and the community needs tourism.

The United Way of Logan County has a Tornado Relief Fund set up at https://www.uwlogan.org.

For more information on the fund and community response, visit www.uwlogan.org/indian-lake-tornado-community-response.

Amber Fagan, Indian Lake Chamber of Commerce president urged those who are displaced to check with United Way for shelter information.