REEDSVILLE - Residents in Reedsville woke Friday to a scene of destruction after a storm cut a swath through the small Meigs County town Thursday evening.
Multiple homes and trailers were damaged or destroyed along Ohio 124 by the storm, though no fatalities were reported.
Fire Chief Russ Carson of the Olive Township Volunteer Fire Department said when the storm struck Thursday night, it was a scene of confusion.
Photo by Michael Erb
Family members sift through the rubble of a Reedsville home Friday morning, looking for clothing, possessions and photographs.
"We had seven different fire departments respond," he said. "We were hampered in what we were doing by the trees down on the roads. It took us awhile to cut through the trees just to get here."
Carson said the crews encountered a few people trapped in homes and vehicles, but most injuries were either minor bumps, bruises and scrapes or non-life-threatening injuries, such as broken bones.
Meteorologists with the National Weather Service confirmed a tornado touched down in Nelsonville.
No confirmation has been made for Reedsville.
Residents Shirley and Leonard Barber said there was little warning before the storm struck. Area reports placed the worst of the storm farther away from the neighborhood, but Shirley Barber said she had a bad feeling as it approached.
"I've always been paranoid about storms," she said.
"It got really bright outside, almost a yellow-green color. The clouds seemed lower to the ground and you could see them starting to spin."
Shirley Barber said she grabbed her husband and headed for the basement.
"There was this horrible sound and I felt this pressure on my head," she said.
The Barbers managed to get into their basement seconds before the storm struck the house. The basement ceiling began to collapse, and the couple hid in a storage area beneath the stairs.
"I thank God we had this here," she said. "It all happened so fast."
Their house is now gone, with only the cinder-block basement and chimney still standing. A pickup truck, which sat in the home's front driveway, rested Friday atop the rubble of his home. The storm even tore the carpeting from the living room floor, tossing wreckage and possessions throughout the neighborhood.
"We just lost everything we got, just about everything except our lives," Leonard Barber said. "I've never seen anything like this. Don't want to see nothing like this again."
Tony Adams said he was lucky to be alive after the storm rolled and destroyed his trailer with him inside. He believed the storm was striking an area miles from the neighborhood when he suddenly heard the storm and felt the trailer move.
Adams said he was in the trailer's kitchen when the structure began to tumble. The trailer slammed into a nearby building, bending the trailer's frame and ripping it apart.
Adams was thrown and ended up underneath part of the floor.
"I picked it up off my back and I could see the storm moving away" and toward a neighbor's house, he said.
A friend who was in the trailer with Adams also escaped major harm, ending up under a couch with mostly bumps, bruises and scrapes.
Though injured, Adams put off going to the hospital Friday morning to sift through the wreckage to find clothing. His ear was bloody and he had visible cuts and scrapes along his face.
"I'm pretty beat up," he said. "I thought I was a dead man."
Several more trailers and houses were leveled, with at least two trailers rolling down hills as they were torn apart. All throughout the neighborhood phone and power poles were sheared in half and trees were torn apart. Debris was scattered throughout the neighborhood.
Kay Gillilan, who owns much of the property throughout the neighborhood, said most of the area's residents are relatives. Her home suffered comparatively minor damage, with the storm knocking over a large tree, ripping siding off the house, breaking windows and tearing the roof.
The storm "took that top and peeled it back like a banana peel," she said. All around here home, however, buildings were leveled.
"I just don't understand how it can get some places and some places it don't," she said.
Her and her husband were on their way home Thursday evening when they received frantic calls from family members about the severe storm passed through from the west where the National Weather Service confirmed that a tornado touched down in Athens County.
Gillilan said they likely missed the actual tornado by a matter of minutes.
"By the time we got here it was over," she said. "We knew there was a lot of damage, but really couldn't see how much until this morning."
Gillilan said she was told by an insurance agent to go to a hotel, but refused.
"We said we can't leave, there are too many people coming and going through everything," she said. "We couldn't take the chance."
Several families also were combing the neighborhood to check on friends and relatives and to recover lost pets. Several dogs were found trapped but relatively unhurt among the wreckage of different trailers and homes.
A nearby barn housing a cow was obliterated, and the cow could not be found Friday morning, Gillilan said.
Carson said he found one vehicle folded in on itself, the front of the truck touching the back bed.
"That was amazing to me," he said. "That gives you an idea of the power of this storm."
Carson said he had never before seen a storm like that in the Reedsville area, but compared it to the 1974 tornado that ravaged Xenia, Ohio, killing 34 people and leveling much of the town.