One Year After Tornado, Moscow, Ohio, Rebuilds

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One of many historic homes in Moscow, OH, damaged or destroyed by the March 2nd, 2012 tornado(Photo: Sam Hendren/WOSU News)
One of many historic homes in Moscow, OH, damaged or destroyed by the March 2nd, 2012 tornado(Photo: Sam Hendren/WOSU News)

It’s been a year since a devastating tornado struck the Ohio River village of Moscow southeast of Cincinnati. Recovery efforts started shortly after the storm hit on March 2nd, 2012. More than a hundred homes suffered damage or were destroyed.

“The tornado come up the river this way. It jumped across from Pendleton County, Kentucky. It come up this way.”

Ralph Ollendick is driving me through the village of Moscow, or what’s left of it. It’s been a year since a tornado ripped his community apart.


“This house was pretty well beat up, they got it looking nice now,” Ollendick says. “Then you go down there, nothing was done to those houses. Tornado never even touched it. You turn the corner here, there was a house on the corner, it’s gone; this house here still hasn’t been repaired.”

Ollendick is a pastor by day and a truck driver at night. His Assemblies of God church suffered only minor damage. Most of the destruction occurred closer to the river.

“When the tornado hit we had 500 homes and we lost about half of those right off the bat,” Ollendick says. “And there were only 30 homes that people could actually live in at that point and the rest of them had to leave until they could get repairs so that they could inhabit it. Everybody was in shell shock. I mean, it was shocking.”

The tornado claimed one life when it tore through Moscow. Carol Forsee, a village councilwoman, died when her home was destroyed. People here are grateful that the loss of life wasn’t greater. But they still wonder about the tornado’s random destruction.

“There was one house on the river here which is gone, they had the table setting for supper, silverware and everything was all there but the house was gone,” says Ollendick. “The room itself was basically there but the shell of the room was taken; the furniture, the placemats and everything not touched. How do you explain that? We’ve got a God that’s so powerful, buddy.”

Q: And what is that really old house over there with the roof gone?

“That’s what they call the Spate House. That’s one of the oldest houses in Moscow and I don’t know whether they are going to restore it or not. That house was a beautiful house, I’m not kidding, just a gorgeous house. The one across the street is just about restored. Those were used on the Underground Railroad to bring slave across,” Ollendick said.

This past weekend the people who remain in Moscow got together at the local community center. Susan Jones is the village’s event coordinator.

“We made it a pot luck dinner,” Jones says. “And as you can see it turned out to be a great buffet board. And also somebody brought a cake dedicated to Moscow. They did it because spring’s coming; you know the newness of life.”

As photographs of a desolate Moscow flashed on a screen in the corner, Wanda Woodruff showed her own photos of the aftermath.

“It just split this house right in two, right there. They had to tear it down,” Woodruff says. “This house here was my niece and it took all of her windows out and all of her furniture went out the roof and all and they had to tear the house down because there was just a shell after the house was gone.”

Woodruff recalls that the tornado struck so quickly she did not have time to reach her storm shelter.

“When the tornado hit, I started praying, which I’m a Christian, and I started praying for the Lord to keep us safe,” Woodruff says.

Woodruff still marvels that a wooden cross landed upright in front of her home during the tornado.

Tim Suter is the mayor of Moscow. He says that while some homes have been rebuilt the landscape has been changed forever.

“The village is just three years from its bicentennial so we probably lost trees that were probably 200-plus years old. It’s just something you don’t replace. It’s just going to be a different place to live,” Suter said.

Mayor Suter said there’s some on-going frustration with recovery efforts.

“Most people are pretty upbeat. For most part the spirit’s good, confident we’ll recover; it’s just going to take some time,” Suter says.

Suter says come back a year from now, and Moscow will be better.