WOOSTER - Rescue workers were assessing the damage Friday after at least seven tornadoes blew across Ohio, flattening buildings, flipping mobile homes and injuring more than a dozen people.
The National Weather Service confirmed at least seven tornadoes were part of Thursday's onslaught, and the Ohio Emergency Management Agency said three counties declared emergencies and at least a dozen were affected. Two tornadoes hit northeast Ohio, two were confirmed in areas outside Columbus and three touched down in southeast Ohio.
A lab building was reduced to a pile of rubble and a barn was flattened at Ohio State University's Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster, about 50 miles south of Cleveland. The campus was littered with upended trees, their roots sticking up in the air.
Mauricio Espinoza, a university employee, was on campus when the storm hit at 5:30 p.m.
"I was inside getting ready to go home when the power went out," he said. "I tried to go outside and then I heard the wind and the shattering glass outside. So I just closed my door and got under a desk."
The storm felt like an earthquake, Espinoza said.
Witnesses told The Daily Record they saw a funnel cloud at 5:30 p.m., when most employees had left the buildings.
"My entire lab is gone," said Heping Zhu, a U.S. Department of Agriculture engineer who had been working out of the lab. No injuries were reported.
The neighboring campus of Ohio State's two-year Agricultural Technical Institute was not damaged but lost power, and student move-ins scheduled for Saturday were canceled. The campus plans to hold the first day of classes on Wednesday, as planned.
Gov. Ted Strickland on Friday visited areas hit by the storm to survey the damage and planned to make an additional stop on Saturday.
Ohio Department of Public Safety Director Thomas Stickrath was in Athens County in southeast Ohio, where at least one tornado hit.
"The damage here is extensive, but we are already seeing significant efforts to clear debris and move forward," he said in a statement. "We were fortunate that no one in Ohio died because of the storms."
American Electric Power reported on its website that about 12,400 Ohio customers had no electricity by late afternoon, down from 33,000 who had been without power following Thursday's winds and lightning. Power was expected to be restored through the weekend and into Monday morning.
Athens County Commissioner Lenny Eliason said there were 13 reported injuries, with five people remaining hospitalized, including two who were taken to a trauma center in Columbus. He did not know their names or conditions.
WSYX-TV quoted Sheriff Pat Kelly as saying no one was seriously hurt.
Eliason said that 10 teams were sent to assess damage, which was heaviest in York Township, outside Nelsonville, and in The Plains, just outside Athens.
It was estimated that 15 homes and six mobile homes were destroyed, and that several businesses were damaged.
The storm tore air conditioning units off Athens High School and hit its football field, blowing off the press box and the roof of the concessions booth and damaging stands, Eliason said.
It also interrupted a girls' soccer game and forced players to scramble to safety inside the school.
Sheriff's Deputy Steve Sedwick, who was on duty at the soccer game, said he was moving people into the school when he saw a cloud and a circular wind pattern. He said a brick wall was blown down.
He said he and firefighters pulled at least two people from damaged trailers.
In eastern Ohio's Tuscarawas County, Dover Fire Department Capt. Brooks Ross said he saw roofs blown off various buildings in nearby New Philadelphia. County Sheriff's Detective Capt. Orvis Campbell told The Times-Reporter of Dover-New Philadelphia that downed wires temporarily trapped some tractor-trailer rig drivers inside their vehicles.
A number of newspapers were hit by storm damage. The Athens Messenger building sustained heavy damage, and Friday's paper had to be printed elsewhere.
The Logan Daily News reports that its printing facility in Athens County was damaged, causing a delay in delivery of Friday's edition. And The Times-Reporter's production plant lost power for most of Thursday and into Friday but was able to publish its morning edition on time by moving operations to a sister newspaper in Canton.