Assessing Storm Damage During Coronavirus Presents 'Unique' Challenge

Apr 9, 2020

Updated 04/10/2020 at 9:30 a.m: Residents in Southwest Ohio, Northern Kentucky and Southeast Indiana are cleaning up from Wednesday night's severe weather. 

There were lots of downed trees, power lines and significant damage to structures in some locations. That includes trees in homes, roofs taken off buildings, and some agricultural barns blown over.

Hamilton County Emergency Management Director Nick Crossley updated the county commission during Thursday's online meeting.

"A lot of the stuff we're seeing is pretty typical for these type of wind storms," Crossley said. "We do not have a confirmed tornado. We're working with the National Weather Service and it's actually unique this time due to staffing in the COVID-19 concerns. The National Weather Service cannot send out teams of individuals, or groups of people, to do their physical assessments in the counties."

Crossley said the Weather Service can't do in-person surveys, and it's asking local officials to help.

"They have asked us to coordinate with our local fire departments and other partners to take pictures of the damage and send it to them, so they can sort of assess, did we have any kind of low level tornado or was it just a straight line wind event?" Crossley said. "So that's kind of unique to a pandemic. So they reached out to us and asked us if we could help them and of course, all the counties said yes, we will."

Crossley said the weather service notes there could be storm damage in 26 of Hamilton County's 49 communities.

The National Weather Service in Wilmington, Ohio, issued numerous tornado warnings and severe thunderstorm warnings as storms moved west to east across the region Wednesday night.

The weather service posted a statement Thursday evening that it had received almost 100 reports of damage from these storms, including both structural and tree damage.

"Based on radar data and storm reports, it is likely that some of this damage was caused by tornadoes, and some of this damage was caused by intense straight line winds," the statement said. "Due to the extensive nature of the damage, and the number of locations affected, a full assessment of the weather event will likely take several days to create."

The weather service statement did suggest that survey crews could be reviewing some of the damage from Wednesday night.

"We ask for your patience as we navigate survey attempts through such a large area while being mindful of social distancing," the statement said. "Any survey would be brief and proper safety measures will be taken. We are currently working with our county emergency management partners to focus any surveys."

The weather service said it expects to receive additional damage reports.