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UPDATE: Massive Tornado Cleanup Continues In Belleville

By: WTAP News Email
By: WTAP News Email

UPDATE September 20th, 2010 6:15 p.m.

Wood County Emergency Management Director Ed Hupp said the damages from Thursday's tornado in Wood County do not qualify for a federal disaster declaration. He said the decision is based on a number of factors, including the number of homes damaged and the number of people who have insurance.

In Wood County there were reportedly 16 homes destroyed and nine heavily damaged. One couple, Jess and Barb Perdue, who's home was hit hard by the strom said their insurance agency has been quick to respond.

State Farm Insurance had claims adjusters on scene Friday morning and the agency issued them a check for some of their damages to help with immediate living expenses.

Barb Perdue did not want to go on camera but told us about the process.

"They've already told us that it (the house) is not livable it will have to go and a new house be put here. They'll put us up some place and take care of us until we get a new house," she said.

State Farm agent Dan McPherson recommends videotaping or photograghing your belongings to create an inventory list that you would have in case of any disaster.

Now tornado victims are having to create those lists after losing most of their belongings, if they didn't make them before the storm.

The Wood County Commission and Wood County Solid Waste Authority will apparently be paying for clean up of debris on the roads and in public areas.

State agencies are reportedly in charge of clearing out debris from Lee Creek to help prevent any future flooding.

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UPDATE September 20th, 2010 12:48 a.m.

Allegheny Power reports electric has been restored to the nearly 3,000 customers who lost it Thursday night in Belleville and others in the surrounding area.

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UPDATE September 19th, 2010 6:38 p.m.

Frontier Communications crews are apparently working around the clock Sunday night to try to restore landline phone and internet service by morning to residents on Lee Creek Road after a tornado struck the area.

Pond Creek Volunteer Fire Department Chief Kevin Rhodes said the road remains closed and only open to local traffic until lines are repaired.

Power is back up and running in most homes in southern Wood County and only a handful are reportedly not.

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UPDATE September 19th, 2010 4:48p.m.

The Belleville community continues to clean and recover from Thursday's tornado and they are not alone as numerous agencies assist in the rebuilding.

Belleville was struck by an E.F. 3 tornado with 160 mile per hour winds causing unimaginable amounts of damage to property and life. Assistance came almost immediately.

"They were here early, some of our people, I'd say within a couple hours of the storm,"says Larry Edwards, with the Mid-Ohio Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross. "I got here around midnight and my wife and I were here until after the governor left on the next day."

The assistance has only increased since then and the Belleville area has become crowded with volunteers and donations. Now, officials are asking to be respectful of those working to rebuild, and stay clear of the Belleville area if you are not involved in the recovery.

"If you're not here to volunteer to help we do ask that you stay out of the area for the time being to help these people recover," says Chief Kevin Rhodes with the Pond Creek Fire Department.

Larry Edwards went on to say assistance will be available through the Red Cross as long as the people of Belleville need.

West Virginia route 68 near Belleville reopened to traffic Sunday. Lee creek road remains only open to local traffic.
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Update 9/18/2010 4:30PM

Normally, Belleville Residents Saturday would have been enjoying the community's annual Homecoming.

Instead, they were cleaning up from what may be the worst storm ever to hit their hometown.

Picking up, clearing up, and mostly, throwing away.
That's what this community faces in the days to come.

Still we've found person after person who were glad they weren't home when the worst happened Thursday night. People like Lester Morgan, whose home was just four years old.

"It picked it up and turned it around and slammed it down, Morgan recalls. "It took my garage, it took my camper, it destroyed everything."

Thelma Kellison, who lives five miles from where the tornado struck, recalls seeing a sky just before the storm she had never seen before.

"It was very still, but the sky was pink, orange and red, said Kellison, describing what she saw in the sky. "It looked like a big sunset that didn't go away."

Emergency management teams had hoped to have power restored to the area Friday night but as of Saturday afternoon the process of doing that was continuing. Not only did West Virginia Route 68 remain closed to traffic but surrounding roads, including Lee Creek Road, were open only to local traffic.

"Because, when you're stringing wires and replacing utility poles, it takes a lot of heavy equipment," said emergency services director Ed Hupp. "And that was our main concern that's why we have shut these roads down."

Meanwhile, two collections were in progress Saturday. One, by the Red Cross for the storm victims the other, to benefit a homecoming event which is still in doubt for this year. The first netted several thousand dollars, the other raised several hundred.

"It shows again how incredibly generous the residents of the Mid-Ohio Valley are," said Red Cross Emergency Services Director Sharon Kesselring.

Ed Hupp says Route 68 near the cleanup site will remain closed at least until Sunday afternoon.

As for restoring power and telephone service, Hupp says the priority is to restore the main utility lines first then individual residential lines.

Kimes Funeral Home raised nearly $1100 in a fund-raiser Saturday for the Belleville Homecoming and another donation drive will take place at their Fifth Street location Monday.

A donation effort Saturday by the Mid-Ohio Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross for the tornado victims netted several thousand dollars.

If you would still like to donate to the Red Cross you can stop by their office on Eighth street in Parkersburg.

For information on donating on-line you can go to our web channel homepage-www.wtap.com- and click on the "hot button" or click on the link included with this story.

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UPDATE: 9/17 11:07 PM

State and local crews have been assessing the damages left behind from the tornadoes that swept through the Mid-Ohio Valley Thursday night and claimed one man's life.

Sixteen homes were destroyed and nine heavily damaged in Wood county, according to the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security.

The National Weather Service has confirmed tornadoes hit Belleville, Reedsville, Wirt county, and Nelsonville.

Governor Joe Manchin treaded through debris to talk to people picking up the pieces left behind from the tornado that swept through Belleville Thursday night.

"The force of mother nature is just unbelievable. Unless you see it and this is not something we see very often in West Virginia, a tornado, and this type of force," said Governor Manchin.

One Belleville man, 57-year-old Larry Jay "Joe" Freeman died from injuries.

Governor Manchin said "The tragedy is we lost one person who I understood had his wife go down to the basement and had his dogs go down with her and he went to retrieve a flashlight or something and then he got caught in the storm- just awful."

Eight other people were reportedly treated for non life threatening injuries.

Friday crews were checking on people in homes in Belleville and as far as they knew- everyone was accounted for.

"We're here to support the first responders. What we do as a state, we come in to make sure they have all the assets they need and all the support that they need."

Due to the large number of local responders Governor Manchin said the National Guard will not be deployed.

West Virginia Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management crews were assessing the scene Friday to see if this qualifies for a federal disaster declaration.

The devastation stretches for miles and residents said they saw tornado like weather coming from the west going southeast into the Rockport area.

A handful of trailers were set up for the Belleville Homecoming festival that was scheduled for Friday night.

Organizers estimate 3,000 -4,000 people come out for the event.

"If it would have happened tonight I'm told, with the homecoming that was starting tonight it could have been devastating and it's a blessing it didn't happen tonight (Friday)," said Governor Manchin.

Governor Manchin said he expects FEMA crews to be on scene Saturday.

Crews will aslo reportedly be delivering dumpsters Saturday to help with the cleanup.

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UPDATE: 9/17 6:30PM

Kimes Funeral Home in Parkersburg is helping where it can.

The funeral home is setting up a tent Saturday morning from 9:00 till 6:00PM.

Kimes is hoping to raise money to help the town of Belleville offset the costs of its homecoming celebration this weekend.

You can drop off donations at the funeral home on Fifth Street during those times, Saturday.
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Thursday night's tornado-like storm seemed to take a direct path along Lee Creek...as we saw when the Lubeck Volunteer Fire Department took us on a tour of what was left behind. We also saw people trying to cope with lives which were turned upside down within the past 24 hours.

Larry Jenkins knew Joe Freeman, the one person who lost his life Thursday night...apparently while he was leading his family to safety.

"He was on disability retirement," Jenkins recalls, "and I'd worked with him here on the Belleville Hydro Project, and I've known him since he was a high school boy."

If there's anything about this storm that can be considered lucky, it's that it didn't happen 24 hours later. That would have been at the start of the Belleville Homecoming, where a lot more people would have been on hand.

"We were going to be down here setting up our camper to sell tea this afternoon," said Carroll Wigal, who had his first look at the damage Friday, "but it doesn't look like we'll be doing that now."

Route 68 continued to be closed to traffic Friday...while crews tried to clear up...and, as best as possible, repair the damage.

"We're going to keep it that way, because we have a lot of power lines down and need to be fixed," said Deputy Mike Deem, of the Wood County Sheriff's Department. "Our concern is for the safety of the people who live here, and the security of their property."

Meanwhile, we have gotten word that the Belleville Homecoming is postponed.

The homecoming board will meet at a later date...to decide whether or not they will hold the event this year.

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UPDATED 9/17/2010 @ 11:47 am

Officials have released the name of the person killed in Thursday night's apparent tornado in Belleville. It is 57-year-old Larry Jay "Joe" Freeman.

We'll have more on WTAP News at Noon.

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UPDATED 9/17/2010 @ 10:25 am

Ed Hupp with the Wood County Emergency Management Services says 12 homes have been destroyed in the Belleville area.

The name of the person killed still has not been released, pending notification of family members.

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UPDATE: 9/17 7:22 A.M.
Sheriff Jeff Sandy says after taking a helicopter with a FLIR unit that detects body heat out to survey the area ... He believes everyone reported missing has been accounted for.

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UPDATE: 9/16 11:46 P.M.

The Wood County 911 Center has declared a weather related emergency in the Robin Hood Road area of Belleville.

Route 68 will remain CLOSED until further notice.

Non-essential traffic and pedestrians will not be permitted in the area.
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UPDATE: 9/16 10:55PM

Wood County Sheriff Jeff Sandy says there has been one fatality.

He says they have discovered a male Belleville resident.

His name is not being released at this time.

Sheriff Sandy says the man was found in a residence that was completely demolished and the coroner will arrive shortly.
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UPDATE: 9/16 10:40PM

City of Athens:

At approximately, 7:00PM, an unconfirmed tornado touched down in The Plains. The path of the storm did significant damage to the Pine-Air Village Trailer Park in Plains. Several trailers were overturned and numerous trees are down.

Evacuation efforts of Pine-Village are underway due to a gas line leak.

Athens High School in The Plains was also in the path of the storm. Forty students were sheltered during the storm. Basil Rutter Field has reported heavy damages.

Damages reported in Eclipse are currently being assessed. Johnson Road was closed between State Route 682 and Athens High School between 7PM and 8:55PM. Road crews were successful in removing large debris from the road.

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

The City of Nelsonville reports that 15 homes were destroyed. Three people were taken to medical facilities.

Currently, approximately 200 people are in need of shelter and are currently preparing a shelter site.

GENERAL SAFETY MESSAGE:

The storm has moved through the area. Officials urge citizens to avoid downed power lines, trees and high water. Please exercise patience, as there will be a number of road closures during the clean up stage of the storm. Road crews will be making efforts to open roadways throughout the night.



Severe weather swept through most of the Mid-Ohio Valley Thursday night, ranging from heavy rains to tornadoes touching down.

Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks says he has gotten reports that a tornado touched down in Athens County.

People there, with his office, say there are several homes and trailers completely missing and others seriously damaged.

No serious injuries have been reported.

In Meigs county, in the Reedsville Area, near State Route 124, several homes are reported to have been leveled due to the storm and the tornado touch down.

In Wood County, in Belleville, there have been reports of a tornado touchdown.

An emergency command post and shelter has been set up at the old Humphrey School.

Wood County Sheriff Jeff Sandy tells us he and others with his office and the DNR are in the Belleville area assessing the damage.

In Belleville, there have been reports of severe damage and several non life-threatening injuries.

We will of course bring you the latest information as it becomes available.

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WTAP Media - Serving Parkersburg, WV and the entire Mid-Ohio Valley

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