Tornado touches down in Huron county

CLEVELAND (AP) - A National Weather Service meteorologist said that a tornado touched down in a Huron county cornfield at approximately 11:30 a.m. on Thursday.

Meteorologist Marty Thompson said that no one was hurt, but a large amount of corn was destroyed from the Townsend township field.

He also said that the trees surrounding a nearby home were knocked down, but the house was spared.

Thompson said that funnel clouds were reported near Elyria, Lorain and Sheffield Lake, but the service didn't know if any touched down.

No damage estimates were immediately available.

Meanwhile, western Ohio struggled with the seventh day of rain Thursday as the number of people forced to leave their homes in one of most flooded counties climbed to 100, emergency officials said.

Evacuations in Mercer County were scattered throughout rural areas and the cities of Celina, Montezuma and Rockford as heavy rain pushed creeks and rivers over their banks. Hundreds of acres of low-lying areas were covered in water throughout the area.

"We've got sandbags stockpiled, ready to go," said Karl Kaiser, county Emergency Management Agency director. "It all depends on what the rain is today. We are hoping it goes to Canada or something."

More showers and thunderstorms were expected until Friday, threatening to overflow other waterways around the state already close to their banks, according to the National Weather Service.

Residents also were evacuated Wednesday in Lakeview and Russells Point near Indian Lake along the Great Miami River. That area about 50 miles north of Dayton has been hit by more than 15 inches of rain since last Friday.

No major injuries or deaths were reported from flooding, which closed several roads and turned farmer's cornfields into swamps in Mercer County.

Gov. Bob Taft toured the county Thursday, calling it the worst flooding he had seen as governor.

"The flooding is truly devastating in term of the number of homes that have been flooded and badly damaged, some beyond recovery," he said. "We drove along one major highway through several feet of water. We saw fish swimming around there on the highway."

Representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Small Business Association were surveying flood damage in five counties to determine if residents qualify for federal money or low-interest loans, Taft said.

"This is what the old-timers call the 100-year flood," said Mike Robbins, deputy director of the county emergency agency. "We talked to all the old-timers we could find and nobody remembers a storm this bad."

In Lakeview, 24 residents were evacuated from their flooded homes. Laura Annon left her home in nearby Russells Point when the water began to rise.

"It's all really disorienting," she said. "I don't know where anything is, and last time I was in our house our kitchen was floating into our living room."

Indian Lake was so high that about 15 inches of water was pouring over the spillway into the Great Miami River, helping swell the river as it coursed south through Sidney, Piqua, Troy and Dayton.

Tom Cisco, director of emergency management in Shelby County, said many houses and highways around Lake Loramie flooded. He said all creeks and streams in the county went over their banks.

Farther north in Van Wert County, Rick McCoy, director of emergency management, said more rain would overflow the St. Marys River near Willshire, a village about 75 miles northwest of Dayton.

"If we get anymore heavy rain, we will have to evacuate. And chances are more heavy rain is coming to the area," McCoy said.

In southwest Ohio, residents in Butler and Warren counties worried that more rain would flood their low lying areas and force evacuations for the second time in a month.

The state Department of Natural Resources warned recreational boaters to beware of high water and fast currents on inland lakes.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)