By Dan Klepal and Erica Solvig
The Cincinnati Enquirer
A line of storms with high winds tore through Greater Cincinnati early this morning and left heavy damage in Warren County, knocking over the huge Kings Island marquee, tearing apart buildings, downing power lines and leaving 13,000 homes without electricity.
No deaths or serious injuries were reported. There was no damage estimate available this afternoon, and about 10,000 homes were still without electricity.
Scientists with the National Weather Service in Wilmington were trying to determine if the damage was caused by a tornado or "straight line winds," which can be as powerful as a tornado but do not swirl and form a vortex. In the hardest hit areas, near Kings Island, winds were estimated between 60 to 80 mph.
Kings Junior High School suffered major damage, as winds tore off a portion of the school's roof and knocked out windows, allowing heavy rains to flood the south end of the school. Between 45 and 48 of the school district's 52 busses sustained some sort of damage, ranging from broken windows to one bus that was crushed when a storage unit landed on it. School officials will announce Sunday if school will be open Monday.
Kings Island lost an icon in the storm. The amusement park's sign, visible from Interstate 71 and a fixture at the park since it opened 31 years ago, was destroyed. Spokesman Jeffrey Siebert said park officials are still trying to decide what to do about the sign, but they expect something "bigger and better."
How the marquee used to look.
(Enquirer file photo photo)
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George Long, a team leader for the Red Cross, said about 36 families contacted his organization asking for help. Four to six of those families may have to stay in a hotel tonight because of extensive damage to their homes, he said.
In South Lebanon, several trees were knocked over, blocking roads and downing power lines. One tree came within inches of 80-year-old Mable Hardy's home on Mary Ellen Street.
"It never broke glass," said Hardy, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1948. "I was just lucky. We've had some pretty bad storms, but I'd say this is the worst."
Deerfield Township work crews are busy clearing debris from roadways. Starting Monday, the Township Road Department will pick up and remove any smaller limbs or other storm debris that residents bring to the curb.
"We're just thankful to God that no one was injured and that our crews have been able to clear much of the debris in such a short time," Township Trustee President Bill Morand said. "We'll do our best to get everything cleaned up as quickly as possible."
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