The early morning storm that spun up at least six tornadoes in Ohio on Wednesday, Feb. 28, did significant damage at Lake Hudson, a favorite summer hangout in Granville.

“We have tornado-like damage in Granville on a track between Spring Valley (Nature Preserve) and Lake Hudson,” said Village Manager Herb Koehler, who said he supplied details about the damage to the Licking County Emergency Management Agency, which forwarded them to the National Weather Service.

“We haven’t heard back yet about whether they will declare it tornado damage,” Koehler said. Lake Hudson is owned and operated by Granville Mayor Melissa Hartfield and her family.

Hartfield said that while they don’t have confirmation that it was a tornado, she has no doubt “that a tornado touched down on that property and ran the length of it.”

She said the storm cut a swath 200 feet wide, ripping old-growth trees out by the roots and tearing the roof off of one building and tossing it 100 yards into Raccoon Creek. The one residence on the property, where two of her relatives live, escaped with little damage, even after a tree fell onto its porch.

Hartfield said Lake Hudson, named for her grandfather, has been a summer home to five generations of her family.

“I was sick to my stomach,” she said about first seeing the place after the storm. “I’ve spent my whole adult life there, nurturing that with my family.”

It is owned now by Hartfield and her mother, Sue Hartfield, and her sister, Elisabeth Hartfield. Her late grandfather, who also owned a Chevrolet dealership that was in the building now occupied by Elm’s Pizza and other businesses, bought the land in 1957 from a sand and gravel business that had operated at the site just east of the Granville Fire Department.

“He was Luther Hudson Williams,” Hartfield said. “Everybody called him Hud. That’s where the Hudson came from. The shelter that was crushed, he built. This whole thing was his brainchild,” she said.

She said her uncle, 94-year-old Bernie Williams, was crestfallen at the sight of the place. “He was one of the ones, who, when they bought it, he spent a lot of time helping develop it. Pushing sand and helping build the buildings.”

Hartfield said she’ll never think twice about running for cover when tornado sirens sound.

“I’m one of the people who was guilty of thinking that because of the hills around Granville that we’re protected. Not anymore,” she said.


A storm assessment tool used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration mapped the paths of the tornadoes in Ohio and shows four of the six tracking on a line between Blacklick, in eastern Franklin County, and Granville.

The National Weather Service reported late Wednesday that one of the tornadoes began in the Havens Corners area, near the intersection of Reynoldsburg-New Albany Road and Havens Corners Road, “and quickly strengthened as it moved through the Havenswood neighborhood in Franklin County, producing tree and minor structural damage indicative of winds between 85 mph and 100 mph.

“The tornado continued to rapidly strengthen as it approached McOwen Road (west of Beechwood Trails), where considerable tree damage was observed, with numerous stands of soft and hard wood trees snapped off completely or uprooted,” the weather service wrote. “A shipping container was tossed, and a home suffered extensive roof loss and the loss of one exterior wall, with debris thrown hundreds of yards downstream. In this area, winds were estimated to be around 120 mph.”

The weather service said the tornado “began weakening just a bit as it crossed into Licking County, but still produced a wide swath of tree and structural damage along its path across Graham Road SW (at Mink Street). Structural damage was mainly in the form of windows blown out, destroyed barns, and minor roof removal. The tornado continued to slowly weaken as it moved east-northeast from the Jersey area toward the southwest side of Granville, where it dissipated.”

But not before the storm did damage on the south side of Granville, where tornado sirens were blaring between 5:30 and 6 a.m. on Wednesday. Some are questioning whether that damage was done by a tornado.

A tree nearly 3 feet in diameter snapped just behind Cedar & Thread in Granville. Credit: Julia Lerner

Koehler said the storm damaged a bridge at Spring Valley before knocking down a tree across the Rt. 16 exit ramp to Rt. 37 south, on the south edge of town, and then across the freeway, where it flattened road and street signs along Rt. 16 and River Road.

It uprooted trees near River Road Coffeehouse and Joe & Mimi’s Pizzeria, Koehler said, and snapped off a tree nearly 3 feet in diameter near Cedar & Thread boutique.

Then it headed east over Lake Hudson.

“It just missed an occupied house, then, on a run of about 400 meters along the lake it took out several dozen old-growth trees by the lake, took the roof off the restrooms – the entire roof landed in Raccoon Creek – and one of the shelter houses was taken out,” Koehler said.

All of the structures on the property have damage, and three power poles were knocked down.

“We’re really lucky there wasn’t a significant rain event with the storm,” Koehler said, because trees and debris blown into Raccoon Creek could have blocked the stream and caused flooding.

At Lake Hudson, friends and volunteers showed up Thursday to help clean up the mess caused by the storm.

“We are heartbroken today,” was the message on the Lake Hudson Facebook page. “It looks as if the tornado came straight through the Lake. Generations of our family have been through, cried with us, offered help and shared in our devastation. Lost the roof of our bathrooms, shelter house completely crushed and close to 50 trees down. When the tornado siren blows … take heed to safety instructions. Thankfully no one was hurt.”

Lake Hudson is a privately owned, recreational lake open during the summer for swimming and recreation. It offers seasonal memberships, as well as daily admission for residents of Licking, Knox, Perry, Muskingum, and Fairfield counties, according to its website. It typically is open from early June through the end of August.

Hartfield said it’s unclear whether the storm damage will affect the opening this year.

“We’re still trying to figure out this summer, and what that will look like and how we put Humpty Dumpty back together,” she said, adding that she and her family are grateful to a supportive community, including Lake Hudson’s employees, who were in tears at the sight of it on Wednesday.

On its Facebook page, Lake Hudson’s owners posted photos of the damage and said, “We wanted to say thank you to all of the wonderful friends, customers of the Lake and community members who have reached out to offer help. We feel like George Bailey at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life – very blessed.”

Alan Miller writes for, the nonprofit news organization of Denison University’s Journalism program, which is funded by the Mellon Foundation and donations from readers.

Alan Miller

Alan Miller teaches journalism and writes for, the nonprofit news organization of Denison University's Journalism Program. He is the former executive editor of The Columbus Dispatch and former Regional Editor for Gannett's 21-newsroom USAToday Network Ohio.