Pennsylvania, Ohio and Canada Twisters Kill 45 : Hundreds Injured, Devastation Is Widespread as Single Storm System Spawns Many Tornadoes
Tornadoes ripping through northwestern Pennsylvania, parts of Ohio and Ontario, Canada, killed at least 45 persons Friday evening, flattening homes and stores and injuring hundreds.
The death toll in eight counties of northwest Pennsylvania was 25. Another nine were reported killed in northeastern Ohio and at least 11 perished in Ontario. The tornadoes were the result of a single weather system.
In Albion, Pa., where state police said three tornadoes killed eight persons and injured 60, eight to 10 blocks were demolished and local officials estimated 150 to 200 homes were destroyed.
‘Roofs Just Exploded’
“It’s the most devastating scene I’ve ever seen in my life,” firefighter Jim Ticknor said. “The funnel would come down, then lift up and hop to a different area, then it would start all over again. It just leapfrogged through town.”
“Whole roofs just exploded,” firefighter Fred Kiedaisch said. “There was debris 100 feet in the air.”
In Beaver Falls, where two persons died, a twister ripped the roof off a department store, leaving only the walls standing and trapping an undetermined number of persons inside, police said. Rescue workers were pulling victims out two hours after it hit.
“It’s very very bad. Buildings have been leveled. We’ve got a gas station gone across the road,” said police Sgt. Charles Herdt.
A tornado that struck Cooperstown left six persons dead and more than 100 injured, emergency officials said.
Six Die in Niles, Ohio
In Niles, Ohio, a tornado cut a path about 200 feet wide and about 3 1/2 miles long, touching down at least three times and killing six persons, according to the Ohio Highway Patrol. Niles is five miles north of Youngstown, near the Pennsylvania border.
Kip Button, a free-lance photographer, said the Niles area hit by the tornado was “totally devastated.”
“It hit on the outskirts of Niles. It crumbled buildings, cement block buildings, reinforced steel buildings,” he said. “People were lying naked. The wind was so strong it ripped the clothes right off their bodies. I saw one body literally cut in half.”
“When I came into the office everything was wiped out,” said Betty Pomp, the owner of an answering service in Niles. “There’s nothing standing. Everything is completely wiped out. Everything is down. The people are walking around in circles.”
Main Street Leveled
Much of nearby Newton Falls, Ohio, was destroyed, with its main street leveled, said assistant fire chief Leonard Kazimer.
“We have no total on injuries,” he said. “There’s dozens, maybe hundreds, who are hurt.”
Television film footage showed a freight train ripped from its tracks in Newton Falls.
In Hubbard Township, Ohio, 10 miles east of Youngstown, police said two persons died, and in Licking County, Ohio, one death was reported.
N.Y. State Struck Also
Tornadoes Friday also struck New York state, where five people were injured, none seriously.
Pete Reynolds, a specialist with the National Weather Service Severe Storm Center in Kansas City, said Friday’s twisters were all part of a storm system that pounded other parts of the Great Lakes region with high winds and hail.
Reynolds said the storm was moving northeasterly and could enter New England by morning.
In Atlantic, Pa., where police reported five persons killed, residents were being taken to shelters, authorities said. Another death was reported in Linesville, and three deaths were reported in Cranesville.
‘Saw It Coming’
“We saw it coming,” said Sally Watkins, an Atlantic housewife. “We got into a basement, got in the corner with the plastic swimming pool over us. It was clear on both sides, black in the middle and you could see it going around.
“There wasn’t much left of Atlantic,” she said.
The twisters destroyed about half of Cranesville in Erie County, hitting two trailer parks and injuring 50 to 60 persons, police said.
Tony Victor, a reporter for WJET-TV in Erie, went to Cranesville.
“While we were there on the scene, rescue workers with flashlights were going from home to toppled home looking underneath the trees that have fallen on top the mobile homes, pulling out the victims,” Victor said.
Mobile Homes Flattened
A twister flattened 11 mobile homes and two houses in Cherry Tree in Venango County, injuring an undetermined number of persons, officials said.
The Pennsylvania damage was concentrated in eight northwestern counties, with tornadoes reported in Erie, Crawford, Venango, Mercer, Warren, Forest, Kean and Beaver counties.
“I wouldn’t venture to say how many tornadoes there have been,” said Therese Rossi, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
Tornadoes lashed central Ontario communities, killing two persons in Alliston, seven in Barrie and two in the village of Grand Valley.
Jim Perrin, a spokesman for the Barrie hospital, said 80 persons had been treated there, 10 for serious injuries, and some were being transferred to Toronto in ambulances. Barrie, a city of 45,000, is 55 miles north of Toronto.
Shopping Plaza Wrecked
Another 67 persons were treated at Dufferin Hospital in Orangeville, according to officials. They said many were injured when a twister destroyed a 10-store shopping plaza just north of town.
Doug Smith, editor of the Orangeville Banner, said the shopping plaza was “reduced to rubble.”
The town of Shelburne also was hit by a tornado, said Environment Canada spokesman Jim Davis.
A local reporter in Barrie said about 150 houses, a hotel and industrial buildings were damaged, and that cars and trucks were tossed about “like toys” on Highway 400, the major link between nothern and southern Ontario.
Barrie authorities called in soldiers from a nearby military base to prevent vandalism.
“People were crying and screaming,” said Patricia Burke, a Barrie resident. “All the buildings were down except the one I was in.”
“It sounded like a whole bunch of jets coming,” Lorne Williams said as he picked up debris littering his living room. A neighbor’s car had been flipped onto the front steps of Williams’ house.
Jim Bradford said he was closing up his cabinet manufacturing plant in Barrie when “concrete chips started flying from the walls.”
“I opened the door and I couldn’t believe what I saw--an absolute nightmare,” he said. “Two cars . . . looked like they were welded together.”