The Press Newspaper

Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

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.”

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On the evening of Saturday, June 5 as the clock closed in on midnight, local television news broadcasters announced that two people were killed in separate incidents along State Route 795 in Lake Township.

It was at that time that most Northwest Ohio residents might have realized that a tornado outbreak occurring simultaneously was going to have serious consequences. Most may not have realized just how serious, yet.

Four Lake Township residents and one Woodville resident would be killed as an F-4 tornado created its own path of destruction beginning at Friendly Village trailer court on Tracy Road, passing through Moline, along Route 795, heading into Millbury, and then on past Blackberry Corners and Route 579 in Ottawa County.

Millbury residents losing their lives are Ted Kranz, 46, Mary A. (DeFriece) Walters, 36, and Walters’ four-year-old son, Hayden D. Walters.

Bailey Bowman, 20, of Walbridge, and Kathleen E. Hammitt, 56, Woodville, were most likely the two women first announced killed as the tornado caught up to them while in automobiles heading along Route 795.

Memorials have been set up for all five of the deceased and readers may comment at www.presspublications.com.

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The Lake Local School District is in talks with Owens Community College to use a building on campus to house Lake High School students come fall.

According to Jeff Carpenter, treasurer, the district’s goal is to keep all of the 550 high school students together.

“Right now, Jim Witt (superintendent), is in discussions with Owens,” Carpenter said. “They do have a building with enough space to serve our students. That is the most likely candidate for where our high school will be come fall.”

Carpenter stressed that although plans are not finalized, the district and the Board of Education are working to keep high school life as normal as possible.

“This is an extremely fluid situation with things happening fast,” Carpenter said. “It is very much a priority to keep the high school kids together. The board and the district is committed to doing whatever it takes to keep them together. There will be no parceling them out to other schools.”

“Our intention is to keep all of the students together and get through the best we can,” Carpenter added.

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It took them two days longer than anticipated, but the Lake H.S. seniors can call themselves graduates after Tuesday’s ceremony at Owens C.C.

Just over 2,300 people filled the Student Health and Activities Center to watch 104 students hear their names called.

Among those graduates was Katelyn Kranz, the class valedictorian, who lost her father, Ted, in last weekend’s storm. Kranz did not speak during the ceremony, but she did receive the two loudest standing ovations of the night the two times her name was called.

Kranz finished with a 4.518 GPA and has accepted almost $40,000 in scholarship money. She was offered over $340,000 in scholarship money from various organizations and universities, and the graduating seniors were offered over $3 million in scholarships.

A lingering rumor that next year’s students will be spread around to various schools was squashed by Lake Superintendent Jim Witt.

“We don’t know how, we don’t know where, and we don’t know the particulars yet, but I stand here in front of you giving you my word and the word of the Board of Education that Lake High School will be together somewhere come August.”

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Bailey Bowman was traveling with boyfriend Gerald Lathrop along State Route 795 heading towards his parents’ home on the evening of June 5.

The two 20-year-old Walbridge residents had spent the day at the Old West End Festival.

Before reaching the home on Luckey Road, a Category EF4 tornado swept up both Bowman and Lathrop, however, Bowman did not survive.

“Bailey and I were coming home from dinner and we were trying to get to my parent’s house for shelter because we heard that there were bad storms, so we left early,” Lathrop said. “We got to-go boxes and we were going to come back here and eat and be with my family and we didn’t make it.

“We ran into a tornado and tried to get to the (Lake Township police) department. I never saw what happened to her. I ended up getting thrown against the building and the only thing that saved my life was two boulders — one on my right and one on my left that held the building up and kept it from falling on me. The whole building collapsed and I’ve never experienced anything like that,” Lathrop continued.

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Christmas spending

Are spending more, less or the same amount this year for Christmas?
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