UPDATE: Friday is Deadline Day for Athens Tornado Victims

By: WSAZ News Staff; Associated Press Email
By: WSAZ News Staff; Associated Press Email


UPDATE 11/26/10 @10:10 a.m.
ATHENS, Ohio (WSAZ) -- Friday is deadline day for victims of the Athens County tornado in September.

All applications must be sent in By Friday for those wanting government assistance.

Case managers will be at the Plains United Methodist Church from 3 to 7 p.m. to assist anyone who needs help with the applications.

For those who qualify and get their applications in by the deadline, help will be provided by the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Ohio Emergency Management Agency.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.

UPDATE 9/30/10 @10:30 p.m.
ATHENS, Ohio (WSAZ) -- More help is on the way for storm victims from Southeasten Ohio. The Federal Small Business Administration announced this week that those people whose homes or belongings were destroyed by the tornado are eligible for low-interest disaster loans.

The SBA set up offices in both Athens and Meigs Counties to provide people there to build back their lives, but it's not just as simple as that.

A person or business has to meet certain eligibility requirements for a loan, which can reach up to $200,000 to replace a damaged home and up to $2,000,000 for a small business. If they aren't eligible, they're referred to the state's Emergency Management Agency (EMA).

EMA director Fred Davis said only about 20 people showed up looking for help today because they have no idea about the financial opportunities.

"These funds are available for those folks. The SBA came in and did an asssesment and found there was a need here, and it met their criteria. This is for anyone who was involved in a storm. It's well worth your time to come up and go through the process to see if you qualify," he said.

The SBA office in Athens County is at the work station of North Plain Road in The Plains and the Meigs location is at the Reedsville United Methodist Church.

Both locations are open until next Thursday.

UPDATE 9/27/10 @ 2:40 p.m.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSAZ) -- The state of Ohio is working to help families that lost everything during the severe weather event in mid-September.

Monday it was announced that the state will provide $1.6M to Athens and Meigs counties to help residents with their recovery from the severe storms and tornados that struck the area on September 16th.

Last week Gov. Strickland declared an emergency and announced he would be seeking money to help local families.

On the evening of September 16th a line of severe weather moved across the state. While several Ohio counties were affected by high winds and eleven tornadoes confirmed by the National Weather Service; Athens and Meigs were identified as the most impacted with uninsured losses. Preliminary damage assessments in Athens and Meigs counties have identified 338 residential structures with uninsured losses, of which 129 were destroyed or had major damage and 301 had minor damage.

The need for these state funds is crucial for those impacted, since the damages do not exceed the minimum threshold established by the Stafford Act to qualify for a federal disaster declaration. The state of Ohio has requested the U.S. Small Business Administration to issue a disaster declaration, which would make disaster-assistance loans available to individuals and businesses affected by the storms. It is still anticipated that many applicants may not qualify under SBA's eligibility criteria and will continue to have unmet needs.

The $1.6M will support unmet needs through state supplemental disaster assistance and will be used in the long run to support rebuilding and further assistance in need.

UPDATE 9/24/10 @ 10:20 a.m.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSAZ) -- Governor Ted Strickland announced Friday an additional 240-thousand dollars in state and federal assistance for people impacted by the severe storms that struck last week in Athens, Meigs and Perry counties.

Each county will receive assistance from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds.

That's for families with children who meet certain eligibility criteria.

Additional assistance for elderly or disabled individuals without children is also being made available.

Athens County will receive up to $120,000; Meigs and Perry counties will each receive up to $60,000.

UPDATE 9/23/10 @ 9:20 a.m.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Three southeast Ohio counties ravaged by last week's tornadoes have been declared disaster areas by Gov. Ted Strickland.

The governor said Wednesday he wants to send $1.6M in state aid to Athens, Meigs and Perry counties.

The Associated Press reports the money would go to individuals and families whose homes were lost or badly damaged. It also would cover lost personal property, such as furniture.

Dozens of homes were destroyed last Thursday by tornadoes that swarmed the state, particularly southeast Ohio.

A legislative panel must sign off on the aid at a meeting Monday.

Strickland's administration has decided not to seek assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, saying the damage would not meet the agency's threshold.

UPDATE 9/22/10 @ 9:20 a.m.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- As Ohio recovers from last Thursday's swarm of tornadoes it won't be seeking aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Ted Strickland tells The Columbus Dispatch the administration has determined the damage and number of people not covered by insurance won't meet FEMA's threshold for assistance.

The Strickland administration will apply for low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration to help both businesses and individuals with rebuilding costs.

The storms destroyed dozens of homes. No deaths were reported.

The National Weather Service had said final reports showed there were eight tornadoes, but the agency's office in Pittsburgh has confirmed one more - in eastern Ohio - bringing the total to nine.

UPDATE 9/21/10 @ 3 p.m.
ATHENS COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- If seeing is believing, Darrin Faires is still the biggest Doubting Thomas in all of southern Ohio.

"It's almost impossible to comprehend" Faires says. "The video you see on TV over the last couple of days doesn't do justice to what you see with your own eyes."

Athens County Emergency Officials are actively recruiting volunteers for this stage of storm cleanup.

A volunteer reception center is being set up at the Work Station in The Plains. That's a social services building located in the Plains Plaza at 70 North Plains Road.

"We need able bodied volunteers to help with storm cleanup," says Susan, who's overseeing the volunteer command center. "We're supplying gloves and safety goggles and ask people to wear long pants and safe shoes. There's nails and broken glass everywhere".

The Work Station Volunteer office will be open between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.

UPDATE 9/21/10 @ 10 a.m.
PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (AP) -- West Virginia's homeland security chief says victims of last week's tornado in Wood County aren't eligible for federal disaster aid.

Division of Homeland Security Director Jimmy Gianato told the Parkersburg News that there wasn't sufficient damage to warrant a federal disaster declaration.

One of the guidelines for a federal declaration is at least 100 structures destroyed. The tornado that touched down in the Belleville and Lee Creek area last Thursday night destroyed or caused major damage to almost two dozen homes. It affected another 20 homes.

One person was killed.

UPDATE 9/20/10 @ 6 p.m.
REEDSVILLE, Ohio (WSAZ) -- Last Thursday’s deadly tornadoes that swept through West Virginia and southern Ohio left a wide path of destruction, instantly changing so many lives.

But following the sheer crippling power of those incredible winds, new life changing acts began. We found another force to be reckoned with -- the outpouring of community help.

More than anything else, tornadoes leave debris. Tons and tons of debris that used to be homes outbuilding and property to storm victims like Howard Barber.

More than 200 students from nearby Eastern High School showed up Monday at this gnarled neighborhood, eager to help.

But many had the same initial gut reaction before pitching in to pick up so many pieces.

"I saw pictures, but I never thought it was this bad," Braden Pratt said.

"We were told a tornado could never hit here. We're in shock," Nicole Moodispaugh said.

"Oh my God, they are great, and so is AEP, they were right here.
Telephone, cable, all the utilities were great. I'm thankful for all the help," said storm victim Howard Barber.

"When we heard about it Thursday, the students were ready to do anything," teacher Robin Hawk said. "We called them yesterday, and they came ready with brooms and shovels and an unselfish attitude.”

First responders at command central say there are more than 30 groups offering all kinds of help, even a clothing center. Students from several area schools will be here all week.

Surrounded by debris, and now help, Helen Holland returned from Alabama to her Reedsville homeplace. She was there to help her son try to put the shattered pieces of his life back together. But for Holland, these kids have stirred some deep emotions.

"It’s given me a renewed faith in humanity," Holland said. "And, not that it's needed, but you can not ask for a better thank you than that."

Many of the tornado victims want to thank all the utility companies and workers who have labored non-stop since the twister hit

UPDATE 9/20/10 @ 9:30 a.m.
ATHENS COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- Athens County is still working to get back to normal after a tornado touched down Thursday.

AEP is reporting that there are still 186 residents in Athens County without power.

If you are in need of shelter or emergency assistance, contact the Athens County Red Cross at 740-593-5273. Meals are sill available at The Plains United Methodist Church until 7 p.m. Monday. And, the Disaster Animal Response Team of Athens County is providing assistance for animal care and supplies through the Red Cross.

Athens County Emergency Management officials tell WSAZ.com that all storm damaged areas are still considered hazardous and are only open to the residents of the area. They urge you to stay away if you are not a resident.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.

UPDATE 9/18/10 @ 11 p.m.
ATHENS COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- The first stages of recovery are underway in southern Ohio after a brutal round of severe weather.

Tornadoes touched down in four counties in our region Thursday night.

The twister tore through Matheny Road in York Township, about four miles from Nelsonville, snapping trees and utility poles and overturning vehicles.

About 70 homes were damaged and 15 destroyed.

Dick Huddy was in his home when the tornado went through.

"It happened so fast,” he said. “There was just a big swoosh."

Huddy says he has to draw back on his experience in the navy during WWII to find a comparison to Thursday's tornado.

"I was in the south pacific and they had the atomic bomb,” Huddy said. “I witnessed it. It was similar to that, just devastation everywhere."

York Township Assistant Fire Chief Wayne Breeze says it’s amazing there were no deaths or serious injuries.

"My first thought stopping in and seeing this was that we were going to have multiple fatalities because I just don't see people living through this,” Breeze said, “but someway somehow, someone was looking over us."

Greg Kennard was watching the weather Thursday night and saw tornado warnings for Nelsonville. He didn't expect it to hit the York Township area.

"The last time I looked up there, the sky was just so black, a different looking color of black, like a greenish tune to it,” Kennard said. “All of a sudden I looked up there, and I just saw stuff whirling around in the air."

Kennard ran into his home to warn his girlfriend. That's the last thing he remembers before waking up in a huge pile of rubble that used to be his mobile home.

The tornado picked his home up threw it from its foundation, tearing it to pieces.

"I believe it is a miracle we made it through that and are still alive,” Kennard said. “That was a killer tornado."

People in York Township have been receiving some assistance.

The Salvation Army and Red Cross have been set up at the local fire department passing out food and water.

Now people are beginning the long process of cleaning up what was left behind.

UPDATE 9/17/10 @ 11 p.m.
ATHENS, Ohio (WSAZ) -- The Athens High School soccer field doesn't look like much of anything anymore after the tornado tore through it Thursday evening. The scariest part of it all was that the women's team was in the middle of a game when coaches and players got word that the storm was heading their way.

The field is covered in debris and all of the field's structures, including light poles, goalposts and the pressbox, have been completely destroyed.

Issac Thomas, the head coach of the men's team, knew they were in for something serious when referees called the game for weather.

"I heard him say, 'it was coming right for us.' I'll never forget him saying that," he said.

He rushed his players into the football locker room, where the Athens women's team was already taking cover. Almost 60 people were crammed into the tiny room and bathroom. Kate Vancouver, a sophomore player, remembers it as a scary scene.

"All of the sudden Mr. Thomas told us to get down on the ground and some girls started crying," she said.

The locker room turned out to be the sturdiest building in the area. The concession stand, where some people sought shelter, was completely ripped apart.

"I had to make to make a quick decision and thank god it was the right one," said Thomas.

The field will eventually be cleaned up, but the memory of the tornado will be tough to forget.

"It will probably will never feel the same to play on this field again," said Vancouver.

The athletic department is hopeful the teams will be able to wrap up their seasons at another area high school or at Ohio University.

UPDATE 9/17/10 @ 10:45 p.m.
BELLEVILLE, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The lengthy clean-up process has begun in Belleville, where several homes were destroyed and one man lost his life as a confirmed tornado blew through the area Thursday night.

Darren Phillips and several of his family’s friends spent all day Friday trying to salvage pictures and any other belongings that were still intact.

The rest was being thrown into a large fire pit.

Phillips was inside his home Thursday night when he lost power a little before 8 p.m.

"Then the winds started really blowing, and we could hear branches and things on the roof," Phillips says. "Then the house just started rocking, and I hollered for the boys to get over with me."

He says he’s not even quite sure if his kids actually made it all the way over to him, as moments later the tornado picked up the home with him and his sons inside.

The home landed a few dozen feet from where it had been about a minute earlier, Phillips says.

"How did Darren and his boys come out of here alive?" wondered Nan Kirl, a longtime family friend.

She helped sift through what's left of the home.

They burned as much as they could, so a bulldozer would have room to come through Saturday.

Phillips and his kids had a few cuts and bruises.

But, two doors down, the tornado took the life of 57-year-old Larry J. Freeman.

The county coroner says Freeman died trying to help his wife and dog into the basement. Freeman himself wasn’t able to get into the basement quickly enough. He was found in a field about 300 feet from his house.

"He was a good, upstanding person in this community. Everybody liked him," neighbor Melissa Peters says.

"He was a "super good neighbor. [I] couldn't ask for a nicer neighbor. He's a jack of all trades. He could weld. He was a mechanic, [could] do body work. Just super. If you needed anything, he was there to help you," neighbor Jim Bunner says.

Another 10 people in Wood County also were treated at local hospitals, and seven more were treated at a disaster station.

Phillips and his family are staying with his mother who lives nearby.

He says he's barely begun to think about what to do long-term, but says one day he would like to move right back to where his house once stood.

UPDATE 9/17/10 @ 10:30 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- WSAZ meteorologists and the National Weather Service confirmed late Friday that tornadoes touched down in four counties in our region Thursday evening.

They are Meigs and Athens counties in Ohio, as well as Wirt and Wood counties in West Virginia.

Meteorologists based their evidence on damages in the four counties -- primarily the way debris was scattered in the affected areas.

An official says 13 people were injured in Athens County in southeast Ohio, with five still hospitalized Friday. At least 15 homes and six mobile homes were destroyed and several businesses damaged.

UPDATE 9/17/10 @ 8:15 p.m.
MEIGS COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- More than 30 homes destroyed and another few dozen seriously damaged -- that's the situation in Reedsville in Meigs County, Ohio, where the storm slammed that area Thursday evening.

There are some amazing survival stories. People say they had little, if any, warning before the savage storm struck along rural Route 124. The violent wind turned homes into splinters.

Cars, trucks, cows, buildings and people went flying, good long distances. Some people escaped their shredding homes to shelter in their cars. All are amazed that everyone in the neighborhood came through alive.

Tony Adams says he thought he was a dead man. One minute he was washing the dinner dishes. The next, a freight train-sounding wind was smashing his home into the pole barn, sending his truck and kitchen across the yard and sending him flying the other way -- landing on his ear.

"That’s the framing," Adams said. "I ended up underneath all of it -- total devastation. It sounded like my old dryer on the tumble cycle, and that’s what it felt like, too."

Meigs County emergency managers say it's a miracle there were no deaths or life-threatening injuries.

Randy Fulks says when his home and outbuildings began to disintegrate, he had no choice but to take his two daughters outside to shelter in a car.

"I was covering them from flying glass and I looked up and – whoosh -- my home was gone and my garage was gone and my camper was gone," Fulks said.

Junior Barber says he and wife Shirley just had time to get to the basement before his truck sailed in from the driveway, landing on what was his home.

"It sounded like a freight train," Barber says. "It didn't last long, but it was very bad. If I didn't have a basement, we'd be dead."

Many in the hard-hit area did not have basements and rode out the storm any way they could to survive. Ambulances did take seven people to the hospital Thursday night, but besides some broken bones for a couple of people, no serious injuries were reported.

UPDATE 9/17/10 @ 1:15 p.m.
REEDSVILLE, Ohio (WSAZ) -- Meigs County Emergency Services Manager Bob Byer tells WSAZ.com's Randy Yohe that in the Reedsville area alone, 31 houses were destroyed and another 12 seriously damaged. Byer says several people were taken to the hospital, some with serious injuries.

In Athens County, the Sheriff's Office has closed several roads in The Plains. Road closings include State Route 682 at the US 33 overpass, State Route 682 at 4th Street and Poston Road at Lemaster Road to allow AEP crews to work on securing downed power lines.

O'Bleness Hospital has reported that 2 people who were injured in Thursday night's storm have been transported to Grant Medical Center in Columbus. Three other people have been admitted to O'Bleness Hospital. Six people were treated and released.

AEP is reporting more than 7,200 customers without power in Athens County as of 1 p.m. Friday.

Crews continue to work to remove downed power lines and several roads have been closed to allow crews to safely work. Area businesses in The Plains and on East State Street in Athens continue to be without power.

The Athens County Red Cross is set up at the The Plains United Methodist Church. Residents who have emergency needs such as shelter, food or clothing can meet there with a Red Cross representative. The church is located at the corner of North Plains Road and Johnson Road but emergency workers say residents will have to travel by foot since local roads are still closed to traffic.

Individuals and organizations who are interested in making a monetary donation to the victims of the storm or who would like to volunteer in other ways can contact the Athens County Chapter of the American Red Cross at 740-593-5273.

UPDATE 9/17/10 @ 11:40 a.m.
WOOD COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The Wood County Coroner has released the name of the Belleville man killed during Thursday night's storm.

Larry J. Freeman, 57, of Belleville, was found in a field about 300 feet from his house along Route 68, according to Coroner Mike St. Clair.

Clair tells WSAZ.com Larry made sure his wife, Sandra and their dog were safe in the basement, but he never made it downstairs.

At least ten people are being treated at a local hospital.

The Wood County Sheriff tells WSAZ.com at least 20 homes were either damaged or destroyed in the Belleville area.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the very latest information.

UPDATE 9/17/10 @ 7:50 a.m.
WOOD COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- One person has died in the strong storm that hit West Virginia Thursday night.

According to emergency crews, a tornado touched down near the Belleville area of Wood County.

State Police say a man from Belleville was found in his home late in the evening. Our sister station, WTAP is reporting the man's home was destroyed by the storm.

According to state police, Route 68 south of Bellville is closed at this time because so many trees and power lines are down in the area. State Police also tell WSAZ.com dozens of homes have been taken off their foundations.

Governor Joe Manchin is expected to tour the damage in Belleville Friday afternoon.

Damage has also been reported in Wirt County near Palestine. State Police say trees and power lines are also down in that area.

Meanwhile, at least seven people have been taken to the hospital after a tornado touched down in Athens County. Damage has been reported all over the area.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the very latest information.

UPDATE 9/16/10 @ 12:55 a.m.
ATHENS COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- According to a news release from the Athens County Emergency Communications Center, at least 7 people have been taken to the hospital for injuries received during Thursday night's storm.

In the release, they report the path of the storm did significant damage to the Pine-Air Village Trailer Park in The Plains. Several trailers were turned over and residents were evacuated due to a gas line leak.

Athens High School was also in the storm path. Basil Rutter Field received heavy damage during the storm. There were students at the school at the time, they were all sheltered during the storm.

In the City of Athens, the Autotech facility on East State Street was leveled by the storm. No injuries were reported at this site.

The City of Nelsonville also saw some severe damage. At least 15 homes were destroyed during the storm. Three people were taken to the hospital and the Nelsvonville Fire Department is in the process of performing a home-to-home search.

In York Township, a number of roads have been closed down due to storm damage including:

  • Matheny Rd.
  • State Route 691
  • County Rd. 4
  • Spice Lick Rd.
  • Kimberly Rd.
  • Carbondale Rd.

    According to the release, at least 200 people are in need of shelter. A shelter site is in the process of being established.

    The Emergency Communications center asks for patience during this process because there will be a number or road closures due to downed power lines, trees and high water.

    Continue to click on WSAZ.com for the latest information.

    Wood County, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- WSAZ’s sister station WTAP reports one Wood County man has died as a result of tonight’s storms. Wood County Sheriff Jeff Sandy says the Belleville man was found in a residence that was completely destroyed. The man’s name has not been released.

    The majority of the storm system’s damage happened in The Plains in Athens County, Ohio. Several mobile homes were destroyed in the Pine-Air Village Trailer Park in Plains.

    A resulting gas leak is causing additional problems and residents are being evacuated.

    Keep Clicking on WSAZ.com for updates, photos and video.

    UPDATE 9/16/10 @ 9:55 p.m.
    Athens County, OH (The Associated Press) -- Authorities in a tiny south central Ohio community say there are numerous injuries after what multiple witnesses described as a funnel cloud damaged homes and trailers.

    Emergency personnel have gathered at a command center at Athens High School in The Plains, a community just outside of Athens, where the storm interrupted a girls soccer game and forced players to scramble to safety inside the school.

    Athens County Sheriff Pat Kelly tells WOUB-FM radio that dozens of emergency personnel are going house to house, searching for people who may be trapped. Power is out, there is a smell of gas, and Kelly says there are numerous injuries.

    Kelly told the station there were at least four reports of a funnel cloud from witnesses in The Plains, Nelsonville and the Athens area.

    UPDATE 9/16/10 @ 9 p.m.
    Meigs County, OH (WSAZ) -- Meigs County Dispatchers say they believe a tornado in the same system as an Athens County tornado has touched down in Reedsville, Ohio.

    The Autotech Service Center on East State St. in Athens and the Athens Messenger along with several other homes and businesses have been damaged.

    Athens County, OH (WSAZ) -- The National Weather Service reports that a tornado has touched down in Athens County.

    Damage has been reported in several places, including trailers overturned on U.S. Rt. 33, and at least one Athens County building.

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