It was about 11 o`clock Saturday when Debra Chalfin got the text on her phone from a local TV station alerting her to a tornado warning just issued in her area.
The family, who lives in the Wood-Lake Mobile Home Park on Cummings Rd., in Millbury, did just what they were supposed to – they planned to head to their designated “safe place,” which happened to be just down the road at Lake High School.
Wasting no time, Debra rounded up her family – her husband Dean, daughters Danielle Chalfin and Jennifer Knoblock ,stepson Eric Eischen and Lincoln, the family dog, and got in the car.
When they got to the school, they called 9-1-1 to arrange to be let in, and members of the Lake Township Fire Department responded.
As they were waiting for the doors to open, the lights went out. “We were still standing outside, and we looked up and saw the tornado coming,” Debra said.
Once they were let inside the building, the family and the firefighters found an alcove in a hallway and hunkered down to ride out the raging storm outside.
“We got situated and were sitting down like we were supposed to; in less than five minutes it hit,” she said. “We could feel it. We heard a lot of wind, and all of a sudden, all of this debris started coming down the hallway.”
The group stayed inside the school for about 20 minutes until the emergency personnel felt everything was clear. They then left the building from the Lemoyne Road side, unprepared for the destruction they’d find outside.
“The firemen took us out to the corner of 795 and Lemoyne Road to get us away from the building,” she said. “They came in and said the ceiling wasn’t safe anymore.”
Just outside the door, the firefighters’ overturned vehicle sat, a testament to the power of the winds that had just swept through. The family looked for their car, but couldn’t find it in among the twisted metal fragments and debris that littered the area.
Because they had no transportation, Walbridge Police came and took them to Walbridge Elementary for refuge. They stayed there until the early hours of the morning, after second wave of storms blew through.
“Then my brother came to take us home,” Debra said.
They were surprised to find their home hadn’t sustained any damage in the storm.
The next morning, like most Northwest Ohioans, Debra tuned in to watch news coverage of the tornado. Watching shots of the heavily damaged Lake High School, she couldn’t believe she and her family survived.
“And there was a white car off to the side, like it got blown around the corner of the building,” she said. “We went over there to take a look, and it’s my car,” she said. “It’s a total loss.
“But we are very lucky,” she said.