ohio tornado
WSYX ABC 6/YouTube

An Ohio father whose young children and their mother were on their way home to join him but decided to turn around just before a deadly tornado destroyed his home is thanking God for sparing his life and keeping his family safe. Blaine Schmitt of Lakeview, Ohio, told The Columbus Dispatch, “I thank God that I’m alive and that my kids weren’t here. It was very emotional when I first got here, and it’s been emotional ever since then. But I pray every day, and it paid off.”

The National Weather Service confirmed that an EF3 tornado was among seven tornadoes that ripped through Ohio as part of a more extensive storm system that also hit Indiana and parts of Kentucky, killing three people. The Logan County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the names of the deceased as Neal Longfellow, Darla Williams, and Marilyn Snapp. Both women were Lakeview residents. Schmitt told ABC 6 that his 1- and 3-year-old children and their mother were just minutes away from their home when they decided to turn around to avoid the tornado. He said if they had arrived before the tornado hit, his children would have been in an upstairs bedroom from which the tornado ripped an entire wall.

Schmitt told ABC 6, “I’ve been praying about God keeping my family safe, and he does. He did. I already knew God was with us and our family. This just is proof.” Instead of his family being at home, Schmitt told The Columbus Dispatch that his friend and former neighbor who was visiting, Greg McDougle, was with him and his dog when the tornado hit, and they all hunkered down in a bathtub. “We just crawled in the bathtub, got hunkered down, drew the shower curtain over us, and that’s when it just came through,” McDougle said as he packed up some belongings before he and his parents traveled out of town. “It was over as fast as it started. It just happened so fast, and it is; it’s just like a runaway train going right through your house.”

As neighbors surveyed the damage to their community outside Schmitt’s home, a group of them also gathered to pray for their community. “Prayed that God would be with their family, and this time, and give us strength and to help us get through this tough time,” the group prayed, according to ABC 6. Lakeview resident Christine Ricketts told the publication that all she could do initially was cry after she first surveyed the damage. “We came last night, and that’s all I could do … was cry,” she said. “As night falls, we realized the things that we need cause in the daytime, I’ve got to stay busy, or else this is what I do.”

Gov. Mike DeWine, who has declared a state of emergency across 11 counties impacted by the storm, shared his condolences with the families who lost loved ones in the storm in a statement on X while praising the resilience of the people in the affected communities. “Our hearts go out to all the families who are trying to put things back together and to the families of those who have died. I’m always amazed at the resilience of the people of Ohio. It’s absolutely amazing to me,” he said. “This Indian Lake community will come back. That’s the message I got from everyone I talked with today.”

Humanitarian organizations such as Operation Blessing are on the ground in Ohio, working to help affected families recover as quickly as possible.

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