Air Force veteran John “Jack” Gallagher thought he had seen it all while in
Vietnam. But nothing prepared him for what was going to go down as midnight approached on June 5.
Gallagher’s Trowbridge Road home was hit hard by tornadoes that crossed from Wood County over into Ottawa County that night. Gallagher, his wife, his daughter, and daughter’s boyfriend took the correct action — they went to the basement.
“It was pretty scary. I’d been watching the news on TV and saw it coming,” Gallagher said.
What many describe as sounding like a freight train, Gallagher compares the noise of an oncoming tornado to a fighter jet he knew so much about during his Air Force stint.
Once the tornado reached his home, all his family could do was sit back and listen.
“There was this really loud, jet engine type sound, and there was dust and things breaking, windows going and stuff being ripped and torn all over. I had no doubt what it was. I just didn’t know the extent of the damage,” Gallagher said.
“We were pretty freaked out about it. Of course when it all finished, what happened, is we got two of them — it was back to back. When it was finished my wife and daughter were still freaking out, and I told them, ‘What are you freaking out for? Now it’s finished. We made it, you know.’”
Once the destruction above them silenced, they went upstairs to check things out.
“It’s damaged, broke every window but two. It tore up the front porch. I have a shingled porch and it’s gone. It collapsed my pole barn. It did a lot of stuff. Then, the roof is damaged and the rain came in,” Gallagher said. “We have to bring a structural engineer in to recertify the building or they are going to tear it down. They are going to have to redo the entire inside or start from the foundation.”
What continued to make his evening eventful was the destruction at the home of Edward and Christine Clause, senior citizens next door.
“I came out to get an idea what had happened to our house, and I just happened to look and wonder, ‘Where is Ed’s house?’ I couldn’t see a shadow or anything and I was sure it was gone,” Gallagher said.
“I said, ‘Well, I’m going to go over and look for Ed.’ So some of my neighbors and I went over and looked for Ed and we found him in what probably once was his crawl space. He was lying between an overturned car and another car and was hurt badly,” Gallagher continued.
“We told him, ‘Stay there. We’re going to get help but we can’t move you.’ It turns out he was going for the crawl space and didn’t make it, and his wife wouldn’t go for the crawl, so she was in an interior bathroom. He said something about his wife or we decided that she wasn’t around, so we started looking for her and heard something coming from out in the pond, and she was laying on some debris in the water with her head barely above water unable to fend for herself.”
Matt Bell, his daughter’s boyfriend, and another neighbor from across the street went into the water to retrieve Mrs. Clause from the pond. Another neighbor, St. Charles Mercy Hospital emergency room nurse Pat Beck, began to care for Mrs. Clause.
“We got to her and he stabilized her neck while they lifted her out of the water and onto at least dry land,” Gallagher said. “She was conscious, but she complained that her back hurt. She complained about pain the whole time. She couldn’t move her arm or anything. She was not really lucid. She was awake and aware of pain, but she was in severe shock.”
Gallagher said the darkness made recovery even more difficult. Not only was it well past midnight, there was no electricity and the thick cloud cover made the scenario even more eerie.
“I had just my flashlight. You know, no fault of anything, but it took forever to get EMS there because of all the downed lines and everything,” Gallagher said.
Meanwhile, the Clause’s son Chris, who lives nearby, rode over in the dark on his ATV four-wheeler.
“Of course, he’s like me, in a fog seeing what the damage was in his house and he came driving up on his four-wheeler. Can you imagine? We are in the pond getting his mom out, you know,” Gallagher said.
Chris Clause’s home, like his parent’s and Gallagher’s homes, was also damaged by the tornado and is currently unfit for someone to live in. While Gallagher might get to renovate their home, Ed and Christine Clause will no doubt have to consider rebuilding their home.
“It’s completely gone. It was all blown into the pond and whatever county,” Gallagher said.
The pond, like other ponds in the areas affected by the tornado, has been drained to clean up and retrieve debris.
Northwood free lance photographer Harold Hamilton, a friend, said, “This was also one of the last places that got cleaned up because there was never anybody there to say hey, clean this, clean that, and do anything. It has been cleaned up now. It was a pretty good mess in their pond. It was unbelievable the debris that was floating in their pond.”
Gallagher said Ed Clause was taken to St. Charles-Mercy Hospital and was in rehab by the end of the week. Christine is recovering at St. Vincent’s Mercy Medical Center.
Gallagher has been staying in a hotel in Perrysburg, and he said his insurance company planned to move him into a town house last Thursday.
“I figure I’ve dodged the bullet many times. I was in Vietnam, so just go with it. We’re just all happy to be alive,” Gallagher said.