Chief remembers hours after tornado hit

Larry Limpf

When Lake Township Police Chief Mark Hummer arrived at the township administration building in the wake of the tornado, he saw a destroyed building and a majority of the police department vehicles scattered like toys across the grounds.
The building housed the police department, offices for the township trustees, zoning department and fiscal officer, and living quarters for on-duty paramedics.
The two emergency dispatchers who had been on duty and survived were on scene. Chief Hummer sent them to Fire Station 2 to operate radios.
“We began the task of summoning more help to assist our firefighters and officers,” Hummer said. “We needed to get to work. I knew we had a deceased resident with us, one who was trying to get into our now destroyed building, and my thoughts raced to the possibility that we may have more.”
The body of Bailey Bowman, 20, was found not far from the building. She and her boyfriend, Gerald Lathrop Sr., had been traveling on State Rt. 795 and tried to find shelter there but it was right in the path of the tornado. By 6:30 a.m. on Sunday, crews were close to completing a search of buildings and as day broke Hummer and then Fire Chief Todd Walters conducted a fly-over in LifeFlight to assess the damage.
Coordination of the first responders’ efforts was conducted at an emergency operations center set up at Nagle Trucking on Cummings Road.
Seized marijuana with an estimated street value of about $1 million was in the administration building when the tornado hit. The chief said the evidence room was breached and had to be guarded in the hours after the tornado.
In all, the financial loss to township-owned property reached approximately $2.5 million – the majority of that from the loss of the building.
Since then, the township administration has upgraded its emergency radio system, which is now inter-operable with the majority of agencies in the region, Hummer said.
When township officials broke ground for a new administration building, Hummer told a gathering of about 80 persons, “Brick by brick we will rebuild this township.”
The new administration building has a “storm rated area” to protect on-duty personnel, police evidence and ordnance, computer servers and anyone being temporarily placed in the holding area.


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