Revisiting Otway 10 years after tornado

A fire department was tasked with rebuilding its station after a tornado hit.
Published: Feb. 28, 2022 at 9:20 PM EST
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OTWAY, Ohio (WSAZ) - Just about everybody in Otway in Scioto County remembers what they were doing the evening of March 2, 2012.

Janie Purte was working at the Otway Depot gas station convenience store.

“The windows, you could feel them shake,” she said.

As it became clear the weather was about to take a drastic and potentially dangerous turn, the owner of the store called and recommended employees take shelter in the fire department nearby.

“It’s a good thing we didn’t,” Purte said.

Not following that advice turned out to possibly be life-saving.

A tornado touched down in Otway, not causing near the level of devastation in West Liberty, Kentucky, or Salyersville, Kentucky, that same night, but their fire station was destroyed. Parts of the building spilled out onto the street.

“We were very lucky, because if it had come over just a little bit, it would’ve wiped us out,” Purte said.

Current Chief Shad Ruby was the assistant chief back then.

“It sticks out because it affected us,” Ruby said.

Volunteers used to being there for others during emergencies found themselves in need of help themselves.

Neighboring stations helped with calls as the Otway department worked to rebuild.

“We had equipment donated,” Ruby said. “We had trucks from as far north as Dayton donated.”

Acquiring funding took longer than they would’ve liked. A new Otway fire station was built and opened in 2018, six years after the tornado hit.

A neighbor whose son was a member of the fire department donated the land the new station was constructed upon.

“We’ve had a lot of support from our residents, fundraisers every year,” Ruby said.

Chief Ruby remembers seeing images in the days that followed of other towns that night where tornadoes left even more of a mark.

“We always knew it could’ve been a lot worse,” he said.

Where the former fire station sat is now a vacant lot, except for a small section now used for storage.

The new station also contains new high-tech equipment, courtesy of a FEMA grant.

“We tripped 10 years ago, but we were able to get back up again and keep marching forward,” Ruby said.

The new building is also used for Otway Village Council meetings and Brush Creek Board of Trustees meetings.

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