Editor’s note: This story incorporates material previously published online by NEWS On the Green with new information.
Fran Fulmer joked that she’d be sweating all summer.
The reason she’d be sweating, though, was no joking matter: the Father’s Day tornado that tore through Brookfield and into Masury pushed over trees in her back yard, robbing her of a shady back porch.
Fulmer was standing at the back door of her condo on Castle Creek Drive in Brookfield when she heard the archetypal train sound.
“I saw them uproot,” she said of the trees. “I’ve never seen anything like that. My heart was pounding.”
Unfortunately for Gary, Jody and Kaden Pilner, the trees came down on their house and shed.
“We were running for the basement when it came down on the house,” said Gary Pilner, of Joy Road.
“That had to be a heck of a wind to uproot those trees,” said Jody Pilner.
The Pilner family was able to return to their home once the tree that crashed onto the roof over the master bedroom was removed. Gary Pilner said he’s waiting for estimates to repair the damage.
Until then, the house has a roof section with one of those fashionable blue tarps, the same as a couple of his neighbors down the street.
Yep, It was a tornado
The EF-1 tornado, which the National Weather Service said had top wind speeds of 95 mph, touched down in Vienna, knocking down trees in the backyard of Dori Lumpp, formerly of Brookfield, who lives on Warren Sharon Road.
It entered Brookfield on a due east path by taking down a tree on Warner Road, knocked down a bunch on South Albright McKay, sending some onto houses, and blocking that road. It stormed down Wood Street, hit Brookfield Township Cemetery and then Joy Road.
The twister ripped up Yankee Run Golf Course and climbed Lorain and Ohio streets on the West Hill before finally lifting, leaving behind a sky full of leaves and branches.
The storm came and went quickly, leaving a nearly six-mile trail.
“It was fine and then it hit and it was all over,” Pilner said.
Irene Orynycz was visiting her 96-year-old mother on Ohio Street when the storm knocked down evergreen trees in the yard – mature trees planted years ago and which her father called his Christmas trees.
“It was an amazing sight to see one tree come down and then the other,” said Irene Orynycz.
First response was swift
Brookfield fire, police and road departments activated quickly. Firefighters Shane Stelk and Steve Mauch were at Lorain Street and Brookfield Avenue in Ladder 18 truck at about 5 p.m. investigating a smoke complaint when they saw the twister and “took a direct pass” from it, according to a report prepared by Fire Chief David Masirovits.
They notified the chief and then started working: clearing trees from Davis and Erie streets, cutting the natural gas service to a home where a tree knocked off the meter head on Brookwood Drive, and on and on. They returned to the station nearly five hours later.
Thirteen Brookfield firefighters responded to more than 40 calls, Masirovits said. They also walked and drove the streets “determining the size and complexity of the scene, and hundreds of miles were logged on apparatus and on foot checking for trapped and injured individuals and evaluating damage to determine its extent,” he said.
Firefighters touched base with more than 1,500 people, and counted 36 streets and 14 specific homes with damage either related to the tornado or flooding.
“Luckily, not one injury or fatality was reported,” the chief said.
Police Chief Dan Faustino said two officers were working, two more were called out, and he and Detective Aaron Kasiewicz came out on their own.
Faustino said he discovered problem areas that had not been reported.
“Call 911,” the chief said. “Don’t just expect us to always find it. Make sure you call.”
Ripe for a scam
Calling 911 is not only important for reporting storm damage, said Trustee Dan Suttles. He said he was told by residents of Wood Street that people were coming around offering to cut up trees for exorbitant prices – $3,500 to $4,000 a tree – and wrongly telling people that they were responsible for trees that fell onto their properties from another property.
“That information needs to get to the PD (police) when it happens,” Suttles said. “It didn’t do me any good three hours later – there wasn’t anybody there.”
State road — Local response
Road Superintendent Jaime Fredenburg called out all four of his full-time guys, and they went right to Route 82, which was totally blocked westbound and partially blocked eastbound from fallen trees. Burghill Vernon firefighters – five came to help – started on the east end while the road crew worked from the west. Ohio Department of Transportation workers came along later. In about three hours, the road was clear, he said.
Then, the road crew moved to Brookfield Township Cemetery, where 11 trees were knocked down, seven of them among the graves.
One or two gravestones were moved by trees and about 20 “were blown off or toppled,” Fredenburg said. The township’s insurance only will cover the stones moved by trees, he said.
Two of the panels of the newly installed decorative fence at the cemetery were damaged and will be replaced, Fredenburg said.
The storm went over the township’s administration building on Strimbu Drive, which runs parallel to Wood Street, and knocked out internet service for a few days, Faustino said. High winds pushed a tree onto a fence on the Route 82 side of the building and scattered tree debris all over the parking lot, which was picked up a day later by juvenile community service workers who happened to be painting the office at the administration building, Faustino said. Wind also knocked over a tree and light pole on the other side of the building.
“Our (radio) tower, the antenna’s bent over up top,” Faustino said. “I have a radio service gonna have to come out. We’re gonna have to get pole climbers or crane truck and testing equipment to test everything out. We don’t know if the antenna was damaged. The tower’s fine. I checked that, so the tower is structurally fine.”
Immediately after the storm, one of the two radio towers used by firefighters was down due to storm damage, and all radio communications were handled with one tower.
In addition to the aforementioned agencies that worked, six Hubbard firefighters, Ohio Highway Patrol and various utility companies came out that night.
“We had a good response from everyone,” Faustino said.
“Our crews’ response, all three departments, it was admirable,” Suttles said. “To me, that just shows an organizational thing that had been in place. It doesn’t happen the day of the event. It happens up to the event and you guys were prepared to say, ‘We got an issue.’”
A “hole-in-one” feeling
More than 300 trees were toppled at Yankee Run Golf Course. Some of the trees dated from before the course opened in 1931.
“We’re never gonna get them back,” said Garrett McMullin of the course-owning McMulin family.
An army of volunteers, probably more than 150 all told, descended on the course over the next week to cut up trees, haul away debris and fix what they could of the fairways and greens.
“This is my favorite course,” said Tom Gardner of Vienna. “I came down when I saw the damage around here.”
Gardner has a side landscaping business and brought his own chainsaw and other equipment.
“Some of the guys out here just busted their rear ends,” Gardner said, noting that some volunteers had been working since 7 a.m., when course employees started work.
“Brookfield and everywhere around here really pulled together,” said McMullin, who had just become a new dad two days before the storm. “Words can’t express how grateful I am. How do you even say, ‘Thank you,’ for the work the people have done?”
The course reopened on June 21, five days after the storm.
Township Trustee Gary Lees said that while he admired the outpouring of help for Yankee Run, it was replicated in smaller ways elsewhere.
“What I noticed that evening and the night, just all over the township, people were helping their neighbor,” he said. “They didn’t hesitate just to take care of themselves. They were helping their neighbor. That speaks well of this township. That’s a positive.”