ELYRIA — A thunderstorm that blew through the area early Thursday afternoon ripped the roof off a church, tossed the debris around the yards of its Lowell Street-area neighbors and knocked out power to nearly 300 homes.
Stephen Sanders, pastor of Glorious Assembly Apostolic Church, pulled into the church’s parking lot just after the storm had passed and noticed a cluster of wires on a utility pole at the east end of the parking lot hanging in a jumble.
“I drove around to the back and saw where the roof had blown off,” he said. “I called a bunch of (church members) and we got the chairs and sound equipment out of the church so it wouldn’t be damaged.”
While an old subroof remained, most of the interior of the church was wet from leaks.
“Our immediate need is for Sunday services,” Sanders said, adding that the church also lost power. “Hopefully by Friday we’ll know something.”
Rachel Vaughn was touring the neighborhood damage on Thursday afternoon with her two young sons.
A large section of the Glorious Assembly Apostolic Church’s metal roof filled her backyard at 112 Seneca St., she said. It took out a section of her wooden privacy fence and pulled down utility lines. Vaughn’s house was one of the ones that lost power.
“I was at work, but my husband was home with our youngest,” she said. “He said he heard something pop, so he called 911 on his cell phone and went to the basement with our son.”
The church’s roof also damaged some of the Vaughns’ gutters.
Across the street from the Vaughns, Jason Parker, 29, returned home to 121 Seneca St. from a local convenience store with his 4-year-old son shortly before the sky went black.
“It started getting really dark,” Parker said. “I shut the windows and it was raining so hard, I couldn’t even see outside.”
The next thing Parker heard above the sound of thunder was a loud bang.
“I grabbed my son and my shoes and we went to the basement,” Parker said.
A piece of wood broke a second-story bedroom window, he said, and the upstairs hallway leading from that bedroom was filled with rainwater and broken glass. Phone lines were also downed, and a large tree limb was lying in the front yard.
Parker called his companion, Kelley Munshower, to come home from work.
“The roof is leaking now,” Munshower said. “I’m just glad no one was out walking through here when this happened. My stomach is still in knots.”
“It just hit so fast,” Parker said, shaking his head at the damage.
In all, roughly 288 Ohio Edison customers went without power for several hours because of two damaged utility poles, said Chris Eck, spokesman with Ohio Edison. Power was restored by 8 p.m., according to a FirstEnergy spokeswoman.
Some residents speculated about a small tornado but Walter Fitzgerald, a meteorologist with the Cleveland office of the National Weather Service, said there were no tornadoes Thursday. What the Elyria area experienced was straight-line winds of 60 mph or greater, he said.
“The colder wind behind the storm is stronger, and it tries to move the warmer air out of the area,” he said.
All of the residents with property damage were waiting on insurance agents and contractors to assess the damage.
Joe and Annette Takacs have lived at 139 Seneca St. for 30 years. A large limb from the ash tree on their treelawn was sheared off during the storm, and another huge branch hung precariously over the street.
They’d been asking the city for about nine months to remove it because of a bug infestation, Joe Takacs, 72, said.
“I guess Mother Nature said, ‘Well, I’ll take care of it,’ ” he said.
His wife was surprised, like everyone else on her block, how much damage was done so quickly.
“It got real black, and I told Joe I thought we were getting a bad storm. It happened just like that,” 71-year-old Annette Takacs said, snapping her fingers. “Then I looked out and saw all this down.”
Contact Alicia Castelli at 329-7144 or firstname.lastname@example.org.