BROOKVILLE — The Dunkles, a family native to Gallia, survived one of the tornadoes that ripped through Brookville and the Dayton area, Monday evening, causing massive damage to their home and neighborhood.
The National Weather Service reported that multiple tornadoes were confirmed to have touched down in the Miami Valley Memorial Day evening with 20 total hitting Ohio into Tuesday morning. Brookville was reportedly one of the cities hardest hit.
“We’re all okay,” said Sueann Dunkle, “that’s the important part.”
Drew, 39, and Sueann, 41, share two children between them. The family moved from Gallia to Brookville in October 2011 and into another home in October 2015 which would eventually be hit by a tornado.
“We were down in Gallia for Memorial (Day) Weekend and then we came back Monday evening,” said Sueann. “The kids were supposed to have school so we were getting them ready for bed and watching the news because we knew storms were coming…Drew said we should go ahead and sleep in the basement so we didn’t wake up at midnight panicking because sirens were going off.”
The family camped out in their basement for the evening.
“My husband and daughter were asleep in the bedroom in our basement and my little boy and I were on the couches just chitchatting,” said Sueann. “There was lightning super bad. No rain, no nothing yet. Then about 10:30 (p.m.), the siren went off for the third time and my phone vibrated the alert to take cover. Then I heard the train sound coming that people talk about. I heard that coming and I grabbed my little boy and I ran into the bedroom where my husband and daughter were.”
Sueann said she dropped to the floor with her children and husband while she screamed, “It’s hitting us. It’s hitting us.” Drew covered them with his body.
“We were in a room with no windows or anything so we were safe in there,” said Sueann. “I was trying to keep the kids calm and myself. It hit so fast and was over so fast. It was unbelievable. You could hear the stuff hitting the house and I’d just keep telling the kids nothing was wrong. ‘It’s hale.’ I knew what was happening.”
Sueann said she asked her husband to go look to make certain water was not pouring into the house after the cyclone passed. She said she smelled pine trees and water. The family emerged from the basement.
“We got to our living room and there was mud and bricks and debris everywhere,” said Sueann. “It wasn’t too bad. I mean, stuff was all over the place but then we got to my son’s room. The whole wall was blown out. Nothing there. It was laying on his bed and into the yard. We couldn’t get into it because the door was twisted and blocking the way. We couldn’t get into my daughter’s room because of that door being blocked. We didn’t even know until the next day that she had the side blown out of her room.”
Neighbors milled about checking on one another and Drew went to check the other side of the house. Sueann said he discovered the side of the garage ripped off and his truck “totaled.”
The family gathered up what they could in the dark with no electricity and went over to a relative’s home nearly a tenth of a mile away, Sueann said, that “hadn’t been touched.”
“We were hanging out in her living room all night with no electricity or water,” said Sueann. “No one could sleep. The next day in the morning, Drew and I came back over to see what we could see in the daylight. It was real. There were trees uprooted in our backyard. Our patio furniture was busted all to pieces. Someone else’s patio furniture was in the back of my car, which was in our garage. It didn’t really seem real to me until I walked around the front of our house and saw the search and rescue X on my door. That’s when it hit me. This is real. They were in here looking for us to make sure we weren’t hurt or dead. It’s goosebumpy.”
The family is safe but left with major damages to their home.
“We’ve got a mess to clean up but everyone has been super helpful,” said Sueann. “Our neighbors got it the worse. They’d lived in their house for six weeks and the tornado leveled one whole side of it. Our neighborhood and the one behind us were hit the hardest. No one’s hurt and God was definitely with us for sure or else none of us would be here.”
“It was an F3 that came through here,” said Sueann of the tornado’s strength. Tornadoes are rated in terms of strength from one to five on the Fujita Scale with an F5 being the strongest. An F3 can have winds blowing between 158 to 206 mph. “We would not have made it had we not been in the basement. It happened so fast. I try not to think about it. My little boy’s room was hit the hardest in our house. If someone had been there, it would have been a disaster.”
“Take the warnings seriously,” said Sueann. “It could have been a lot worse. They (meteorologists) are serious when they say that. It’s bad. Had we not done that, we would have been upstairs and my little boy wouldn’t have made it out of that room.”
Edits made to reflect number of tornadoes updated as National Weather Service confirms. Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.