The Cincinnati Enquirer from Cincinnati, Ohio on November 12, 2002 · Page 6
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The Cincinnati Enquirer from Cincinnati, Ohio · Page 6

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Tuesday, November 12, 2002
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1 v THE CINCINNATI ENQUIRER A6 TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 2002 FN FROM PAGE Al In Gallatin, The trailer started shaking, and it just By Cindy Schroeder The Cincinnati Enquirer WARSAW, Ky. - When high winds knocked Jeff Brewer's mobile home off its foundation Sunday night, 14 members of the close-knit Gallatin County family found themselves tossed about the rubble like rag dolls. But they were grateful to be alive. "We'd just finished dinner (about 6 p.m.) when it started lightning and thundering, and the lights went out," said Roger King, 55, of Somerset, Mr. Brewer's father-in-law. "The next thing we knew, the trailer started shaking, and it just blew apart. We ended up laying on the roof of the house right in front of my truck." One of Mr. King's daughters, 29-year-old Stacey Size-more of Warsaw, had to get 42 stitches in her head after the Brewers' 35-inch television fell on top of her. Another daughter, Rhoda Brewer, 32, suffered a sprained wrist and a cut foot, while Mrs. Brewer's mother-in-law, Wilma Brewer, 55, hurt her shoulder and head when she was pinned in the debris, - - - u"-- . . . feW -A,igr..A ... ... . g . .. v . ,,i An aerial photo of the Van Wert Cinemas on Monday shows the devastation those inside escaped. Movie: Quick action saved lives From Page Al Fifteen minutes later, there was an upside-down Chevy Cavalier in the row in which Mitch had been sitting. The screen and walls were gone. The screaming from the 60 people - mostly children -huddled in interior restrooms and hallways did not die down when the 200-plus mile-per-hour winds did. "We were just blessed," Mitch said Monday, as Ohio Lt Governor Maureen O'Connor pledged state assistance in the theater parking lot Ohio Gov. Bob Taft declared a state of emergency in Van Wert and Ottawa counties, about 160 miles north of Cincinnati. Local officials this week will pursue both state and federal aid. "Quick action saved many, many lives in this county," Ms. O'Connor said, the royal-blue theater seats behind her exposed to the gray sky, still strewn with metal debris, yellow insulation from nearby homes and the blue Chevy that belonged to an employee. In Van Wert County, two people were killed and 19 injured, 22 houses were destroyed and 12 had major damage, and six businesses were destroyed. Much of the credit for lives saved went to Mr. Shaffer, who promptly herded patrons between the cinder-block walls of the building lobby and restrooms. The cinema was equipped with a weather-alert radio, which went off moments before the county's 14 sirens did. "It happened so quick," he said. "Afterward, that's when fear set in." He hustled dozens of children into the restrooms, knowing they had the strongest walls. There were 130 people at the matinee. Some, like Mitch, had left for home moments before the tornado hit, but many remained - awaiting their rides. "It started shaking and rat- But like the other dozen Gallatin County storm victims who were treated at area hospitals, they suffered only minor injuries. "Not a room was left standing, but God had to be with us," Wilma Brewer said. "Nobody was seriously hurt. You look at all that damage and think, 'How did we ever get out of it alive?' " Jeff and Rhoda Brewer's new mobile home was one of seven Gallatin County trailers or houses ripped from their foundations on Sunday, when a line of storms raced through much of the South and Midwest, said Chris Curtis, a 911 supervisor for Gallatin County. Much of the damage was confined to the Walnut Valley area of Gallatin County, six miles west of Warsaw, off US 42, and 40 miles southwest of Cincinnati. Elsewhere, the band of storms killed at least 35 people and injured more than 200 in five states, including Ohio. Although the storm spawned multiple tornadoes in north ern Ohio, Gallatin County's damage was caused by high tling," Mr. Shaffer recalled, "and got ear-piercing for a few seconds." He received several stitches to his left arm at Van Wert Hospital, an injury he didn't notice at first. Only one other minor injury was reported at the theater. Paul Roddy, 27, of nearby Paulding was watching 8 Mi-fewith his wife. He covered her on the floor and held on. "Kids were screaming," he said Monday. Were it not for the manager and good luck, he said, "we'd probably be dead." Two doors down on West Main Street, Donna Holman was awakened by a siren. Owing to instinct, she drove directly to the Ohio State Highway Patrol post in Van Wert, where she is a dispatcher. Her home, she said, was destroyed. The crushed shell of a neighbor's red compact car was in her front yard, amid broken and uprooted trees. She and her husband, Doug- las, had just moved to their home Sept. 13. "It just makes you sick," she said, surveying the damage. "But, thank God." Rick McCoy, director of the Van Wert County Emergency Management Agency, thanks the level of preparation that made Van Wert one of only four Ohio counties designated as "storm ready" under federal guidelines, he said. "We have a number of vehi damage was caused by high winds also hurtled tree limbs homes gone but lives spared winds. "At this time, we've determined that straight line winds in excess of 60 mph caused that damage," John Center, a National Weather Service forecaster, said Monday evening. Jeff and Rhoda Brewer and their two children were among six people in two families who received sweat suits, socks, toiletries and cards to purchase food at participating restaurants, said Vesta Moore, an American Red Cross volunteer. All of the families displaced by the storm found shelter with friends or relatives. The storm took a diagonal path across Ky. 184, a winding two-lane route also known as Walnut Valley Road. It destroyed a double-wide trailer and a frame home on that road, ripped apart the Brewers' mobile home on nearby Country View Lane, and blew over a barn on a nearby hilltop. At least three homes on Walnut Valley Road had siding peeled away or satellite dishes tossed aside. High winds also hurtled tree limbs cles here we're not sure where they came from," he said. Unlike in Hamilton County, where some battery-operated sirens failed in the 1999 tornado that killed four, each of the county's sirens worked. Eleven of Van Wert's 14 sirens are dependent on electricity. When it goes, the sirens fall silent. That didn't occur here Sunday. Van Wert County five years ago replaced three sirens with battery-backup units, funded by county money and a matching grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. They cost about $15,000 each, Mr. McCoy said. Still, the five deaths made this the area's most deadly tornado since Palm Sunday 1965. Denver and Cretie Bran-ham were killed in their mobile home in nearby Continental, Putnam County; Nicholas Mollenkopt, 18, of Van Wert was killed when the tornado blew him out of his car; Alfred Germann, 75, of Van Wert, died in his home; and a fifth person died in Republic, Seneca County. Cleanup will take weeks. Glenn Troth, meanwhile, was hit both professionally and personally. He was acquainted with the elderly Mr. Branham, who was well known for selling eggs out of his home. "He waves at you before you realize he's there," Mr. blew apart' through the walls of a third home on the state route, said Bill Lay, chief deputy with the Gallatin County sheriffs department. "See that car setting over there?" Deputy Lay asked, pointing to a beige Toyota Camry parked next to the empty foundation where Frank and Beulah Helton's frame home once stood. "That used to be the garage. The car and the lawn mower are still there, but the garage was blown way back in the woods." On Monday afternoon, Mr. Helton gingerly picked his way through the debris that had been his home, as family members retrieved clothing and other personal items. Bits of 2-by-4s were scattered through the Heltons' back yard like matchsticks, and the house itself was dumped about 50 feet from its foundation. Most of the roof was peeled away, and the walls were slanted as if the house had been slammed down accordion-style. "I was standing at the countertop, getting a candle to light, when all of a sudden, The Associated Press AL BEHRMAN ' Scott Shaffer, manager of the Van Wert Cinemas, stands outside the remains of the building Monday. He and other employees herded about 50 people into the brick hallway and rest-rooms during Sunday's storm. Associated Press CATHIE ROWAND Troth said of driving past the Branham home. "Then you wave in your rear-view mirror and you feel guilty if he doesn't see you." Mr. Troth also is on the board of trustees at family owned Braun, which manufacturers equipment for ambulances. "It pays to go to church," he said outside Braun in the Vision Industrial Park, site of some of the worst damage and home to about 300 jobs. Across an open field littered with twisted metal, debris and printed work orders that skidded in the wind, motorists stopped along Ohio 30 and took photos. Mr. Troth said the positions of the firm's 94 employees should not be affected, despite a third of the company's roof being scattered amid die ruins of Teem Wholesale distributorship across the street, which was leveled. The Teem office is gone, the time clock stuck on 3:29. The three 18-wheelers at Teem were on their sides, smashed. Braun, like area schools, will remain closed for at least a few more days. Nearby, telephone poles were snapped like twigs. On Monday, Veterans Day, Braun's American flag flapped atop its pole, ripped horizontally but for a 2-inch piece near the stars that held it together. E-mail tOfteillenquirer. com f, mm , , . ....j The Cincinnati EnquirerPATRICK REDDY Family friend Mike Greene crawls through what, until Sunday, had been Frank and Beulah Helton's bedroom. He came Monday to help them retrieve any salvageable items. the room started trembling," Mr. Helton recalled. "There was a sound like a freight train and the whole house raised up just like you were going up in an elevator. The next thing I knew, I was knocked out for five or 10 minutes." When Mr. Helton came to, he heard his wife calling for help, and he found her Storms: More than 35 die across five states From Page Al alarm buried deep in the rubble. Searchers believed that most of the missing in and around Mossy Grove were OK and had simply been unable to get in touch with family members, said Steven Hamby, Morgan County director of emergency medical services. The storm knocked out telephone service and blocked roads. No bodies had been found since early Monday, but Mr. Hamby said digging out could take weeks. "We're hoping that we're past the bad stuff," he said. In Carbon Hill, Ala., 70 miles northwest of Birmingham, seven people were killed by nighttime storms that sent giant hardwood trees crashing down on houses and mobile homes. Sheryl Wakefield cowered in her concrete storm shelter and listened to a twister roar down the country road where her extended family lives in six homes. Her sister and niece were killed when their double-wide mobile home was thrown across the street, its metal frame twisted around a tree. "Everybody's house is just totally gone. My son doesn't even know where his house is," she said through tears. "It's gone. It's just gone." At the now roofless Carbon Hill Elementary School, fourth-grader Johnny Ro-sales looked through a window into the rubble that was once his classroom. Only five months ago the town's high school burned down, and the boy said he does not know where he will go to school now. "IU guess they'll bulldoze it like they did the high school," he said. Dan McCarthy of the federal Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., said unseasonably warm weather Sunday, followed by a cold front, made conditions ripe Deadly storms sweep across the A series of deadly storms stretching through more than a dozen and injured over 100, WIS. IOWA Wind partially collapsed a supermarket Injuring inree people SOURCES: Associated Press; ESRI Jo, Illinois Van Wert J IV,. 1 aSL S IND' -v hingtonfl MO. V W.VA. Six trailer ,'T 1 VvT KENTUCKY XVA UT S j y vw- destroyed . At least 16 dead Jf Mossy" Grove N.C. rf, and 55 Injured -f- TENN. Knoxville -Thousands vJJ j r without power y ' . ARK. 1 sGreenwood JT, 1 MISS. Water -? p Power outages ' r7 Pickens X- Heavy damage , ( LA yomdes, ALABAMA GEORGIA Vrfand at least - ' One man killed and LAt least 10 dead f ' . I $ ) about 55 Injured and 50 Injured w ( tr- p Atlantic Ocean ''-.-JrX Gulf of Mexico FLA i .' 1 - r. X S 0 100 km . X ' mn m ii trapped under a wall that had collapsed in the master bathroom. The couple "half crawled and half walked" through pieces of ceiling, crumbled insulation, and broken furniture to the front door, which they forced open, Mr. Helton said. A neighbor called 911 emergency medical services. The Heltons were transported to vrvr lj ' iTifl liiiiin-Miiinrritn'i mi The Associated PressDAVE MARTIN Jean Mayfield weeps in front of her destroyed home in Carbon Hill, Ala., on Monday. Tornadoes and thunderstorms killed at least 10 people in the state. Deadly U.S tornadoes over the decades The swarm of tornadoes that hit the South and Midwest this weekend was the nation's deadliest in more than three years. Some other deadly tornado outbreaks in recent decades (reported death tolls vary slightly depending on how fatalities indirectly related to the tornadoes were counted): Feb. 14, 2000 - 20 killed In Georgia. May 3, 1999 - 44 killed in Oklahoma and Kansas. April 8, 1998 - About 40 killed in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and North Carolina. Feb. 22-23, 1998 - 42 killed in Florida. May 31, 1985 - 90 killed in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Ontario. April 3-4, 1974 - More than for the rash of twisters, some of which were estimated to be at least in the F-3 category, with winds ranging from 158 to 206 mph. It was the nation's biggest swarm of tornadoes from a single weather system since more than 70 twisters - some topping 300 mph - killed 50 people in Oklahoma and Kansas in May 1999. Broadcast storm warn T J At least Ave dead 'and 21 Injured Blaihford - LL7 PV'-J ( ki; (TV n -s I V iff Carroll County Hospital, where they were treated and released. "We're lucky we made it out alive," Mr. Helton said. "You can replace things, but you can't replace people's lives.". E-mail cschroederenquirer-.com - v 300 killed across the South and Midwest. April 11, 1965 - 271 killed In Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin. June 8, 1953 - 142 killed in Michigan and Ohio. March 21, 1952 - 208 killed in Arkansas, Missouri and Texas. April 9, 1947 - 169 killed in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. April 5, 1936 - More than 450 killed in Mississippi and Georgia. March 21, 1932 - More than 300 killed in Alabama. March 18, 1925 - 695 killed and 2,000 injured in Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. It was the deadliest U.S, tornado on record. The Associated Press ings preceded twisters in the most hard-hit areas. In Alabama, National Weather Service forecaster Ken Graham said 46 tornado warnings were issued in an 11 -hour period, and everywhere that had damage was under a tornado warning. "We're very proud of that," Mr. Graham said. "We think we saved some lives last night" U.S. states killed more than 30 people l One man killed and up to 19 people Injured The Associated Press 3 y' '",' A.

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