The severe storm season started early in southwest Ohio when on Monday heavy rains, strong winds and an EF1 tornado tore through the region, damaging homes and leveling a barn.
A low-pressure system that moved through the heart of the Miami Valley helped create funnel clouds that touched down in the Phillipsburg area, said Storm Center 7 Meteorologist McCall Vrydaghs.
The severe weather and tornado that struck the region are more characteristic of the April and May months.
But the warm winter and moist air could lengthen the spring weather season where temperatures and conditions are ripe for punishing thunderstorm wind events that create tornadoes.
“We are a few weeks ahead of schedule,” Vrydaghs said.
The 13-county area had at least 61 tornadoes between January 1996 and May 2015.
At 1:38 p.m., the National Weather Service reported that a severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado was moving from the West Alexandria area in Preble County northeast at 25 mph.
The agency issued tornado warnings for Darke, Miami, Montgomery and Shelby counties, which were cancelled shortly after 2 p.m.
The weather service confirmed that an EF1 tornado touched down near Phillipsburg in Montgomery County.
Bill Blumenstock, of Arlington Road, said his family’s barn was completely destroyed in the storms. He described the storm as fast-moving and sounding like a freight train.
“It just lifted it up and spit it back down like it was sticks,” said Blumenstock, who was at a farm down the road when the storms hit.
Blumenstock said he saw the storm on the news, walked outside and witnessed a funnel cloud crawl out of the sky and rip through the area.
“I saw it hit the neighbor’s house, took the roof off,” he said.
Mark Evans, who lives by Arlington and Sweet Potato Ridge roads, said he was at work when he learned about a tornado near his home.
Arriving home, Evans discovered that his house narrowly avoided serious damage.
“I am missing two shingles off my house,” he said. “The neighbor over here, his whole roof is gone off his house.”
Evans said he and his neighbors will wait for things to dry and then will get to work cleaning up.
Evans said the one thing that’s missing is the cat.
Other communities in the region were working Friday afternoon to clean up after the strong winds and rains.
Fire officials were investigating whether a lightning strike sparked an attic fire at a home on the 1300 block of North Chippewa Drive in Greenville.
Moisture in the air, coupled with spinning winds from the low-pressure system, allowed funnel clouds to condense, form and touch down, said Meteorologist Vrydaghs.
Severe weather tends to stem from warm and cold temperatures clashing.
El Niño contributed to a warmer winter, which may have triggered an earlier onset of spring-like severe weather, Vrydaghs said.
On Monday, severe and hazardous weather developed quickly and unexpectedly.
In the severe weather season, a regular rain shower can transform quickly into a thunderstorm or tornado, Vrydaghs said.
“I would say we are on the fringe of going into severe weather season,” she said.
Vrydaghs said one of the biggest threats on Monday was that the storms were rolling in just as some schools were preparing to recess. Some school districts do not start practicing tornado drills until the spring.
WHIO and WHIO.com contributed to this report.
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