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Published: 6/7/2010

Survivors recount ordeal of escaping brutal winds

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Along County Road 7, houses untouched by the storm sit alongside houses that were shattered during the tornadoes. Along County Road 7, houses untouched by the storm sit alongside houses that were shattered during the tornadoes.
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DELTA, Ohio - Thirteen-year-old Ashley Mock was at a friend's house, getting ready to watch a movie when she heard screaming.

Seconds later, the roof of the house was torn clean off and Ashley was sucked out of the three-story house as it collapsed.

She was slammed back down onto the rubble that was once her friends' home in Fulton County's Swancreek Township.

"I closed my eyes and I was screaming," Ashley said Sunday morning after surviving one of the two tornadoes Saturday night that cut a swath of destruction across at least a mile of the southeast corner of Fulton County.

She survived the ordeal with a few scrapes.

The teenage girl was spend-ing the night at the home of Donna Mills, 1520 County Road 7, along with the owner's daughter, Anna Mills, 13, and another friend, Sierra Richardson - all students at Liberty Center Junior High School.

Mrs. Mills said the only warning she had was a call from her brother, who said a tornado warning had been issued. "Then, all of a sudden, it sounded like a freight train, so I started screaming for the girls to come downstairs," Mrs. Mills told The Blade.

Two of the girls, Anna and Sierra, made it downstairs and huddled with Ms. Mills in a bathroom while the house was flattened on top of them.

"I told the girls to cover their faces and we were buried," Mrs. Mill said. "We were saved by a pedestal sink that fell over and gave us shelter, and we were saved by Jesus and our faith."

The family dog, a golden retriever named Orion, was found running through a farm field a half-mile away about 10:30 a.m. yesterday, almost 12 hours after the powerful storm hit.

Two homes to the south, Julie Felty, 54, was seriously hurt when a tornado destroyed her home and scattered broken furniture, bricks, and other debris over a wide area.

"She had blood all over and blood was seeping out of her head," next-door neighbor Lynn Hardison said. "I wrapped a towel around her head and held her as tight as I could. We called an ambulance, but they couldn't get in right away because our propane tank was spewing propane."

Ms. Felty's smashed car sat in front of where her house once stood. She was listed in fair condition last night at University of Toledo Medical Center, formerly the Medical College of Ohio.

Justin Thompson, director of the Fulton County Emergency Management Agency, said that in all, more than 40 homes were damaged and at least five of those were destroyed. There were no fatalities in the county, he said.

"The National Weather Service said it was two tornadoes in the area," Mr. Thompson said.

Stories of destruction and survival were traded up and down the rural County Road 7 - the epicenter of the Fulton County tornado damage. Neighbors spent much of the day yesterday helping each other, sifting through rubble, and securing tarps onto partially damaged roofs.

Jerrod Holly, who lives on the west side of County Road 7 across from Ms. Hardison, decided to evacuate when he heard of the approaching storm. He put his 5-year-old son in the car and planned to take shelter at his parents' home nearby, but the tornado hit just as they were leaving.

"The car got thrown maybe 30 feet and a tree came through the window and hit me in the shoulder and back of my head," said Mr. Holly, 32, whose arm was in a sling. "I just covered my son and I told him that I loved him because I thought we were going to get thrown right into the sky like in the movies."

Jill Sonick, who lives at 1365 County Road 7, said a tornado passed between her home and that of her neighbor's, directly to the south. Between the two homes was a path of debris that used to be Ms. Sonick's barn.

"When they said there was a tornado watch, I didn't think much of it because we get tornado watches all the time," she said. "But I let the horses out of the barn, because I knew they would be better outside than in, and luckily I did that, because otherwise, they would have died."

Ms. Sonick's six horses were unharmed.

Just down the road, part of the roof of Ray Circle's home at 1301 County Road 7 was torn off, and after the tornado passed, he found his neighbor's horses in his pool.

"You could see hoof marks on the ground, and how they had been dragged, then they were lifted in the air, then dragged again before they landed into the pool," Mr. Circle said.

About one mile south west of the destruction on County Road 7, John McGraw was outside his home along State Rt. 109 and Fulton County Road A when he said the four tornadoes landed.

Mr. McGraw went outside to check his camper, which started to blow away as he turned back toward the house.

"There were four distinct vortex and three of them joined into one major tornado," he said. "It looked like a big cone and had a pretty large debris field with it."

Mr. McGraw's home caught fire from live wires or an overloaded conduit box. "I was crawling through the field, grabbing the dirt and holding on, trying to get away from the electricity I could feel dissipating into the ground and I was hoping the tornado wouldn't pull me away," he said.

The severe weather Saturday night also cut a path of destruction through Oak Openings Preserve in eastern Lucas County, shearing, toppling, and uprooting hundreds of trees. The park will remain closed at least through today as crews continue the cleanup.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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