Tom Silver Jr. inspects the damage of an April 17, 2024, tornado that hit Windham Township. Jeremy Brown/The Portager

Tornado strikes Windham, leaving some residents homeless but no one hurt

In just minutes, a tornado decimated a Windham neighborhood Wednesday evening, and it was over before some residents even made it to the basement.

The tornado, rated an EF1 intensity, spun at least four miles through Windham Township causing severe damage to multiple houses, leaving several homeowners without power, and others without a safe place to sleep.

The tornado resulted in massive destruction to residences but also caused a hazmat situation on the turnpike after a tractor trailer was overturned, dumping diesel fuel on the highway. 

Despite the damage, no injuries were reported. Officials have not yet indicated how many properties were affected.

Lynnea St. John was napping when the tornado hit her home. A tree branch punctured her ceiling. Jeremy Brown/The Portager

Deputy Director Brett Lee with the Portage County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) received a call around 7 p.m. alerting him about a tornado touchdown affecting the areas of Windham-Parkman Road, Bryant Road and 303.  

“The tornado went across the turnpike causing three tractor trailers to wreck,” Lee said the following morning, “one tipping over on the berm, the other one getting jackknifed and its saddle breaking, turning into a hazmat incident for us. We’re not actually sure how much diesel fuel was spilled at this time.” 

EMA did an assessment of the damage that evening and orchestrated a meeting with local public safety agencies. The team also alerted Ohio Edison about the downed power lines in the area.

Repair on the power lines began Wednesday evening.

“There were a few family members that were affected, displaced from their houses,” Lee said. “They did have places to go last night.”

Jeremy Brown/The Portager

Lee said the Red Cross and the Salvation Army were scheduled to be on scene Thursday to help homeowners navigate the situation. 

Another meeting was scheduled for Thursday evening to further assess the situation.

Tom and Dorothy Silver’s house at 9627 Windham-Parkman Road was one of the many structures that was heavily damaged.

Tom and Dorothy’s son, Tom Silver Jr., explained what he experienced the night before.

“It was pretty scary,” he said. “We got down in the basement, I don’t know, probably 90 seconds before it hit. The house was shaking, sounded like it was being ripped off the foundation. It lasted just, I don’t know, a couple minutes, then it was over. We came outside to see all the mess. It sounded like a freight train was driving on top of the house, that’s what it sounded like, a freight train, just pounding noise, crushing.”

Jeremy Brown/The Portager

The tornado not only damaged the exterior of Tom and Dorothy’s house, the chimney was blown over and the bricks crashed through the roof, breaking a truss and leaving a large hole in the ceiling. Many of the windows in the house were blown out and the garage doors were contorted. 

“I was in shock,” Tom Silver Jr. said. “I still am. It’s bad. I don’t know what I’m going to do, I don’t know what anybody’s going to do. You just figure it out as you go, that’s what I’m going to do.”

His house is right next to his mom and dad’s house, but it was largely left intact, although a semi truck hooked to a trailer parked behind his residence was toppled by the windstorm. 

Jeremy Brown/The Portager
Jeremy Brown/The Portager
Jeremy Brown/The Portager

He said the mobile home on the other side of his parents’ house is completely gone, the house across the street was heavily damaged and has shifted on its foundation, and a barn a mile away was lost.

His mom and dad are now staying with their daughter until the house is repaired.

The twister decimated many of the trees in the community, leaving them strewn about neighborhood lawns, and in more than a few cases, toppled them onto community members’ houses. 

Jeremy Brown/The Portager

Lynnea St. John resides across the street from the Silvers and has lived in the neighborhood her entire life. She was caught off guard when the storm hit — it happened so fast, she didn’t even have time to go to the basement.

“I was taking a nap on the couch,” St. John said. I didn’t have my TV on, I didn’t have my phone on, nothing, so I didn’t know there was a tornado coming. The house started shaking, I was thinking, maybe I better go to the basement, you know, and the next thing I know it was “crash.” The crash was so loud, and then I got up, and it was over just like that. I started looking out the window, and there’s a big branch coming through my ceiling.”

A tree fell on St John’s house, but outside of a small branch that pierced the roof, and some minor cosmetic blemishes, the damage was minimal. She just had new gutter screens installed, which she said will now have to be replaced because they were affected by the storm. 

Late Thursday night, the Portage County EMA sent the following press release:

At approximately 6:45 p.m. on April 17, 2024, an EF1 tornado touched down near State Route 303 and Stanley Road in Windham Township, and traversed northeast over Byant Road, the Ohio Turnpike for four miles. The community is responding with support for affected families and neighborhoods.

The tornado’s path went north of the turnpike, impacting State Route 82 and Windham-Parkman Road. The severe weather damaged property, closed roads, downed powerlines and disrupted traffic on the Ohio Turnpike. The National Weather Service walked the area Thursday, April 18, and verified there was a tornado.

The community has responded with support. Today the Renaissance Family Center of Windham, in partnership with the Salvation Army, established a community reception center. A lunch and dinner were available. The center is located at 9005 Wil Verne Dr., Windham.

Tomorrow, April 19, the Renaissance Center will be open again to provide meals from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. and 4:30-6 p.m. The community reception center will be a central location for families to learn about available resources from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Renaissance Center. In attendance will be:

  • Job and Family Services
  • Children’s Advantage
  • Family and Community Services
  • AxessPointe
  • United Way 211

Stay tuned for more information on the possibility of pantry items for families in need. 

Numerous township and village agencies responded Wednesday night including Windham Township, Windham Village and Garrettsville Village. After assessing numerous homes in the area and overturned vehicles on the Ohio Turnpike, no injuries were reported.

That evening, emergency responders from state, local and county agencies established a unified command at Windham Townhall. Priorities remain to open up major transportation routes, utilities, and assess unmet needs of impacted community.

Portage County Emergency Management Agency staff completed damage assessment on Thursday, April 18. Property owners can also report damage online at the PC EMA website:

Emergency Management agencies are charged with assessing damage to households, businesses and public infrastructure following natural, technological and man-made emergencies or catastrophic disasters. Doing an immediate survey of damage allows emergency managers to determine the extent of loss, suffering and harm to citizens, families and public infrastructure. If you have questions, call PC EMA at 330-297-3607.

Jeremy Brown
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