BELLEVILLE - "It was over in seconds," one resident Friday described the tornado that tore through Reedsville, Belleville and Wirt County in only minutes.
Clean up in the aftermath will take much longer. As workers from utility companies trucked in to begin clean up, residents, many joined by family, friends and neighbors, began work on their homes and yards.
A tornado passed through from the west where the National Weather Service confirmed that a tornado touched down in Athens County.
While some residents Friday like Iris Smith of Belleville had to contend with debris and a rearranged back porch, others were trying to salvage remnants from their homes.
Jamie Freeman of Belleville was joined by family and friends Friday morning as he cleaned and sorted through the remains of the home he shared with his mother. The Freeman house was devastated with half the roof ripped off and its contents strewn over a hundred yards.
"We're trying to gather up everything we can save," Freeman said as he dumped insulation and siding onto a ever-growing pile in the front yard.
Aerial photo by Tim Parks
Teams from the National Weather Service Friday were dispatched to Belleville to confirm reported tornado touchdowns during Thursday night’s storm.
Freeman, whose father built the house 1980, has lived in Belleville all his life. Freeman said he'll remain.
He'll scrape off the structure down to the floor joists, cover it with a flat roof and live in the basement for the winter, until he can rebuild.
Freeman said no one was home when the tornado roared through the area. He was in town when he heard about the impending storm. By the time he arrived in Belleville, W.Va 68 was closed. Freeman parked his truck and walked around to his home. He was dumbstruck when he surveyed the damage.
"I didn't know what to think," he said. "My dad built that house with every bit of money he had," he said.
Freeman's uncle, Larry J. Freeman, was the lone fatality from Thursday's tornado.
On Lee Creek, over the hill from Belleville, residents were also in clean-up mode. Dan and Lorrie Talbott had a generator outside their home to provide power while they used chainsaws to take care of the felled trees.
The siding was ripped off a side of the Talbotts home. Both the house and garage had significant roof damage.
Dan Talbott said the bedroom ceiling collapsed Thursday night because of the damage to the roof.
The Talbotts stayed in the basement when the tornado struck. Lorrie Talbott said it lasted about 10 minutes and managed to blow out a basement window.
Their neighbor Clyde Phillips, had relatives helping to clean up a large pole barn that had been destroyed.
"We're just getting a few things so somebody else won't take them," he said.
The barn, located less than 30 feet from Phillips' brick house, was obliterated. Metal and wood from the structure were strewn over a half-mile radius, hanging from trees and power lines. A truck and several farm vehicles and equipment that were inside were heavily damaged.
Down the road Dave Kemp and his relatives were using chainsaws and a Bobcat to clean up a massive wood barn that was demolished. Kemp said his daughter's pony was in the barn when it collapsed.
Kemp, who was at work when the tornado hit, said his family hid in a small bathroom underneath the stairs of their home.
Kemp's truck and trailer where thrown into a creek about 100 yards from where it was sitting in the drive.
The storm started in Athens and Meigs County, according to the National Weather Service. The storm crossed the Ohio River at Belleville and made a straight line through Rockport into Wirt County. The area between Belleville and Rockport sustained the most damage, according to officials.
Despite the intense amount of property damage -a dozen homes and countless garages, outbuildings were destroyed - residents were surprisingly upbeat Friday, smiling while recounting the encounter.
"We were lucky," Lorrie Talbott said. "Very lucky."