Storm Damages Research Center

Buckeye Farm Beat

A weather system that spawned tornado damage across the state on Thursday wrecked havoc on the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.

Published on: September 17, 2010

Pictures were taken by Ken Chamberllain, OSU Extension.

Major damage was done to the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster Thursday when a tornado tore a path of destruction through the campus of the facility. The center’s Research Services building, which houses the administrators, was the first to be hit as the storm touched down just after crossing the east side of State Route 83.

Bill Ravlin, associate director of OARDC, was about to leave his office after work at 5:30 when the building was hit. “As I started out my door the south end of the building seemed to explode sending rain and debris down the hallway. I couldn’t push the door open because of the pressure change. So I went back to the office and had a front row seat as cars were flipped over and trees were snapped off in front of me.”

Grain bins were smashed and a wagon flipped as the tornado moved eastward across the OARDC campus.

From the administrative building the whirlwind moved to a series of greenhouses containing research projects of all kinds. “The greenhouses were flattened sending tomatoes every direction’’ according to Mauricio Espinoza, communications specialist for the center. Projects from horticulture, crop science and plant pathology were among the experiments being housed in three greenhouses that were destroyed.

Grain bins were smashed and a wagon flipped as the tornado moved eastward across the OARDC campus.

Major damage was then done to the Ag Engineering building about half of which was leveled by the winds. The buildings metal rear structure was torn off and brick and block walls were pulled down. Cars were flipped alongside the building.  

The Agricultural Engineering Building was the worst hit structure sustaining damage to brick and masonry walls.

Next in line was the Rice House and the Stone House, the latter of which is listed on the historic register as home of the original landowners that the center was built on. Damage to the structures includes the roofs being torn off.

Roads around the campus were just being cleared a day after the disaster.

After flattening an old barn used by facility services and maintenance, the storm took aim at the renowned Secrest Arboretum. “It looks like somebody came with a big axe and just chopped the tops off all the trees,” reports Espinoza. “They were just snapped in half like match sticks.”

The Rice House was one of two historic structures damaged by the tornado.

Further damage was also done to the quasar biodigester’s membrane covering that gathers the methane produced in the building.

Damage assessment from the storm was still undetermined. 

However, none of the center’s 400 employees were injured, Ravlin reports. “Many of our scientists have years of work tied up in projects that may be lost, but we are fortunate that it hit at a time when most people had left for the day.

At this writing roads were still being cleared so a better assessment of the damage could be made.

In other storm news, the Farm Science Review Site suffered much less severe damage as tents were torn down by the system. However, Matt Sullivan, assistant manager of the show says things will be cleaned up and ready to go when the show opens next Tuesday.