COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - At least three people were killed by toppled trees and more than a million homes and businesses lost power as the remnants of Hurricane Ike blew through Ohio on Sunday.
A falling tree killed two motorcyclists in Hueston Woods State Park in southwest Ohio, said Ohio Department of Natural Resources spokesman Jason Fallon. A woman was killed in the Cincinnati suburb of Mt. Healthy when a tree fell through the roof of her home. Her name has not been released, said Hamilton County Coroner O'dell Owens.
Winds gusting up to 78 mph felled trees, ripped roofs from buildings and blocked roadways across the state, with southwest and central Ohio bearing the brunt of the storm's force.
Gusts clocked in at 78 mph in Wilmington and Lebanon and 75 mph in Columbus, according to the National Weather Service.
"What we experienced was a hurricane-force wind gust," said meteorologist Myron Padgett at the National Weather Service in Wilmington.
More than 852,000 Duke Energy customers lost power in southwest Ohio and northern Kentucky in the biggest outage in the company's history, said Duke Energy spokeswoman Kathy Meinke. Just before dawn on Monday, about 582,000 were still out.
"It's going to be quite extensive," Meinke said. "Over 90 percent of our customers are without service."
Close to 344,000 American Electric Power customers had no electricity Monday morning in central Ohio, including nearly half of Franklin County, according to the company's Web site.
"This is an unprecedented event for this time of year," AEP spokesman Jeff Rennie said. "We've never seen anything like this in early fall."
Both companies said it could take more than a week to restore power to some hard-hit areas. AEP is recalling crews that had been dispatched to southern states hit by the hurricane. About 310,000 Ohio Edison customers were in the dark in northeast Ohio, said spokeswoman Robin Patton.
South Central Power Co. reported on its Web site Monday morning that more than 28,000 customers were out in central, southern and eastern Ohio. The winds tore off part of the roof at Blacklick Elementary School in Gahanna, a Columbus suburb, Gahanna Superintendent Gregg Morris said.
Airport officials evacuated the control tower and canceled about 40 flights at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport before resuming air traffic Sunday evening, said airport spokesman Ted Bushelman. He said winds gusted up to 74 mph, ripping off part of the roof from a Delta Airlines hangar and damaging another airport building.
In Middletown, gusts knocked down a tree, which landed on a nearby house and left a truck dangling in the air.
"The tree is leaning on our neighbor's house, and then the root lifted up the back end of my husband's truck. It's about 8 feet in the air," resident Barbara Ray told The Middletown Journal. "We've been out here for 17 years and we've never had winds like this."
The winds sparked at least eight fires in Warren County, including one at a power substation in Hamilton Township that was later extinguished, said Frank Young, the county's director of emergency services. About half of the county's residents were without power. A man was injured by a falling tree in Springboro but his condition was not known, Young said.
"We've got thousands and thousands of trees down, a lot of damage to homes, businesses, you name it," Young said. "We want Ike to go away."
At the Miami Machine Corp. about 30 miles north of Cincinnati, the roof collapsed and landed on a neighboring building, police dispatchers said.
Fallen trees and other debris blocked roads and damaged cars throughout the region. Police also responded to downed power lines and street lights that have stopped working. In Cincinnati, Findlay Market - the state's oldest public marketplace - and several adjacent buildings caught on fire.
Downed trees and branches covered the roads in Columbus' downtown German Village neighborhood on Sunday night. Residents who had lost electricity gathered in the streets to assess the damage. Others congregated at local restaurants and bars like High Beck Tavern, where the bartender, Wayne Lewis, said business was three times busier than a typical Sunday.
Jeff Reznor, 63, made his way over to High Beck after his four-unit apartment building lost power and shingles were blown off the roof.
"We've had some pretty good soaking rain from storms, but not wind damage," said Reznor, who has lived in Columbus since 1965.
The winds died down Sunday evening and had returned to normal by Monday morning. No rain was forecast for the region. The storm damage prompted public schools in Cincinnati and Columbus to cancel classes on Monday.
Hurricane Ike came ashore from the Gulf of Mexico and hit Texas early Saturday morning, then moved northward on Sunday.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)