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Published: Saturday, 6/12/2010

Latta, Brown applaud volunteer cleanup crews during tour


DELTA, Ohio - Larry Lewis fought tears Friday to recount the tornado that rocked his Fulton County home and leveled his barn last week.

"It was hell," he said. "You could hear glass breaking and things slamming into the house."

Friday , hundreds of volunteers continued the cleanup of the storm-ravaged lots at Mr. Lewis' property and around the region.

"They have been great and we are just so thankful," he said.

Similar appreciation for the outpouring of volunteer aid came from two federal lawmakers who toured tornado-damaged areas in both counties Friday.

Larry Lewis shows U.S. Rep. Bob Latta the damage during the lawmaker's tour of what was the epicenter of Saturday night's tornado, Fulton County Road 7.  Larry Lewis shows U.S. Rep. Bob Latta the damage during the lawmaker's tour of what was the epicenter of Saturday night's tornado, Fulton County Road 7.
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"It is amazing to see what the volunteers have done," U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green) said on Fulton County Road 7, where the majority of the destruction in that county occurred.

"They should be proud of their community, the way they came together," Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) said at the Lake Township Fire Department after getting a briefing.

Mr. Brown said he was "virtually certain" Gov. Ted Strickland's appeal on Wednesday for a disaster declaration would be approved by President Obama.

Judy Welland, a food service worker at Lake schools, center, joins volunteers in cheering the arrival of donated buses from Columbus City Schools to replace several damaged Lake vehicles. Judy Welland, a food service worker at Lake schools, center, joins volunteers in cheering the arrival of donated buses from Columbus City Schools to replace several damaged Lake vehicles.

"We expect help on everything from cleanup to rebuilding of the high school," Mr. Brown said. "We don't know exactly what form it will take, but it will be soon and it will be significant."

The tornadoes that plowed through northwest Ohio the night of June 5 caused five deaths and damaged an estimated 79 homes in Wood County and 68 in Fulton County. Among the buildings destroyed were the Lake Township Administration Building and Lake High School.

Tornadoes also destroyed two homes in Swanton Township, Lucas County, and damaged others, county Emergency Services Director Dennis Cole said.

He said the homes were insured and that Lucas County won't qualify for a direct disaster declaration. But because the county is adjacent to two counties likely to be declared eligible for disaster aid, homeowners would qualify for low-interest loans to help make up for underinsured damage.

The governor's disaster declaration estimated the public cost of cleanup, temporary facilities, and emergency protection at about $1.3 million for Fulton, Ottawa, and Wood counties.

Tornadoes also tore a path of destruction through Monroe County, Michigan, destroying five houses and damaging more than 180 others.

All over Lake Township in Wood County and in Swancreek Township in Fulton County the signs of energetic recovery, operations were everywhere. But so was the evidence of more work ahead.

At Gary Welling's farm on Moline-Martin Road in Lake Township, some equipment and barns remained in the same overturned, mangled condition Saturday night's tornado left them in, even though trucks and workers were laboring to clear the rubble.

Mr. Welling said he doesn't know whether he'll be able to rebuild his demolished farm and food-processing operation.

But he still has a sense of humor.

Mr. Welling was wearing one of the T-shirts the family designed after a 1992 tornado damaged the property they were renting on Bradner Road.

The T-shirt reads, "I survived the tornado of '92, but my barn didn't." His wife added "& 2010" after "92."

He said an emergency declaration might help him resume his farming operations.

"It would help, especially if there's some kind of financial aid in my case to help rebuild," Mr. Welling said. "If I had the money to rebuild, I would. It all depends on the insurance." He said the farm, which grew grain, including white corn for the Mexican food market, had a lot of older equipment whose value would fall short of its replacement cost.

Wood County Commissioner Tim Brown said 79 homes were impacted, from minor damage to total destruction.

He said local officials would look to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for grants and low-interest loans.

He said emergency responders would seek reimbursement for overtime costs credited to the tornado.

Justin Thompson, director of the Fulton County Emergency Management Agency, said "well over 600 volunteers" have been sent to clean up some of the 68 storm-damaged homes.

Chain-saw crews were directed from property to property to cut downed trees while volunteers then pulled the wood to the roadside.

In Wood County, more than 1,600 volunteers have helped clean up since Monday, and 400 to 500 meals a day have been prepared to feed the volunteers, Lake Township officials said yesterday.

Losing her own home in the storm that sent her to the hospital didn't stop longtime volunteer Beverly Hicks.

Mrs. Hicks, 78, a volunteer for more than 20 years with the Lake Township Fire Maids, reported for meal preparation duty the day after the tornado picked up her Collins Road house and moved it about 18 feet.

She slept through the storm, and said she never felt pain from the dozens of glass shards that doctors told her remain in her body.

She's grateful about 20 volunteers helped clear debris from her 173 acres of farmland.

Now it's her turn to pitch in, Mrs. Hicks said.

"I just feel blessed that I didn't get killed," she said. "I feel real blessed."

Hundreds more volunteers are expected to stream into Lake Township today, and at least two local landfills extended hours to accommodate the tornado cleanup.

The Hoffman Road Landfill, 3962 Hoffman Rd. in Toledo, will be open 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. today.

The Evergreen RDF Landfill, 2625 East Broadway in Northwood, extended hours today to stay open until noon.

Steven Spitler of the office of Ohio Treasurer Kevin L. Boyce said $20 million will be allocated for reduced-interest loans for storm victims through the Renew Ohio program. The program offers loans up to 3 percent below the market interest rate, Mr. Spitler said.

Those interested can call the treasurer's local office at 419-241-2957 or the Columbus office at 1-800-228-1102.

Small business owners and the agricultural community can apply for priority rate reduction assistance through the Treasury's GrowNOW Program.

Rescue divers and fire crews spent most of Thursday searching a pond near the destroyed Lake Township administration building, after officials studied a security tape that caught the fierceness of Saturday night's tornado.

Some thought that a large piece of flying debris could be that of a body, Lake Township Police Chief Mark Hummer said during a news conference yesterday. The search revealed that the debris was two piles of concrete rubble.

"We reviewed it, and kept going over and said, 'You know, we're just not sure,'•" Chief Hummer said. "We want to do our due diligence and make sure we are not missing anybody."

Chief Hummer also reminded would-be gawkers to stay away, and said that officers will start ticketing those drivers who are ignoring road-closing signs.

Staff writers Ignazio Messina and Bridget Tharp contributed to this report.

Contact Tom Troy at:


or 419-724-6058.

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