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Ohio State Wooster campus still recovering from 2010 tornado

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Two years have passed since a tornado wreaked havoc on the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster, and the campus is still recovering from the damages.
At 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 16, 2010, associate director of OARDC Bill Ravlin was in his office. He heard the tornado sirens’ warnings, but decided not to leave the research service building because he didn’t want to get wet from the rain outside.
Thirty seconds after the sirens went off, the tornado hit the south end of the building. Ravlin said wind and debris worked their way across the campus, destroying buildings and 1,500 trees along the way.
Within five minutes, the storm was over, but the incurred damages were long lasting. Ken Cochran, program director of the Secrest Arboretum said it took three months to clean up the campus, during which time it was not open to the public.
According to a 2011 Lantern article, the campus received donations valued at more than $127,000 in the aftermath of the storm. The Secrest Arboretum, the area of campus in need of the most work as a result of damage, received more than $100,000 in donations and gifts, including trees and plants valued at more than $20,000.
In addition to the destruction of buildings and trees, research was lost as well, “mostly in terms of material, times and relocation to new facilities,” Ravlin said.
Scientists at OARDC kept DNA and other biological materials in the research center freezers, but when the tornado hit, the whole campus lost power.
“We have generators that kick on automatically,” Ravlin said. “But the gas started leaking, so we had to turn them off. It took six months to get back materials we had accumulated over many years.”
With this material gone, graduate students were forced to put their research on hold. Students conducting research in the greenhouses had a delay as well, but plastic greenhouses were set up around campus to lessen the delay.
Researchers at OARDC study bioenergy and bio-based products like fuels, chemicals and fiber products, along with work in with the environment and sustainability. They also study food production and security, and human health.
Despite the obstacles the tornado left behind at OARDC, officials said the center’s future looks promising.
“We made an opportunity out of loss and crisis,” said David Benfield, OARDC’s associate director. “We looked ahead at opportunities to prepare for the future. To make facilities better than what they were before.”
Last year, on the disaster’s anniversary, the thousandth tree was planted on campus. Now, almost all of the trees that were destroyed have been replaced.
Ravlin said by 2013, new buildings and state-of-the-art greenhouses to replace those destroyed will be completed. And by 2014, the rebuilding of the totally destroyed agriculture engineering building will be completed.
“There’s no doubt that (we’re) coming back better, because we took the attitude and time to look toward future,” Ravlin said. “Definitely what we rebuilt is better than what we had before.”

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