Tornado Damage Prompts Governor To Declare State Of Emergency

JACKSON TOWNSHIP, Ohio (AP) - A tornado cut a five-mile-long swath through a northeast Ohio county, blowing off roofs, destroying houses and knocking out power to thousands of homes. There were at least two minor injuries as the storm left a path of damage a quarter-mile wide.

"I heard noises that were so unusual, I decided I'd better get in the basement," said Tim Craven, who was home alone in Canton when the storm hit Sunday. "I took three steps down, and I heard a loud noise, and I knew it was the roof coming off the house."

Debris from the second floor traveled as far as 200 feet.

"I balled up on the basement floor, and it got quieter, and I could hear our dog walking around upstairs," he said. "When it was over, I grabbed the dog and my keys and drove to my father's house two doors south, and they had no damage."

Gov. Bob Taft on Monday declared a state of emergency in Stark County and was to visit the area on Tuesday, his spokesman Joe Andrews said.

Meteorologist Will Kubina of the Cleveland office of the National Weather Service said early Monday that a tornado touched down in Jackson Township near Canton at 1:58 p.m. Sunday.

The storm was part of fast-moving cold front that collided with warm air to produce tornadoes and thunderstorms that battered the Tennessee and Ohio valleys Sunday, upending homes and killing at least four people, including a 12-year-old boy catapulted from his bed.

High winds and hail the size of golf balls damaged rooftops and cars throughout Ohio.

While some houses in Stark County were heavily damaged, others lost shingles, had windows broken or had siding stripped off. Other homes were untouched.

Ed Cox, director of the Stark County Emergency Management Agency, estimated that 23 buildings were destroyed. In one home that was blown down, two people inside were not seriously injured, Cox said.

Jackson's schools were closed Monday and were to remain closed on Tuesday. The gymnasium and bus garage roofs were partially blown off at Jackson Memorial Middle School, and school officials said power had not been restored to the building Tuesday afternoon.

North Canton police Chief Mike Grimes said trees were blown down and windows were knocked out of houses and businesses in the city.

"We sustained damage in a line through the city. The power went out for everybody in that section. But there were no injuries," he said.

About 12,000 customers lost power Sunday afternoon, but all but a few hundred were back in service Monday, according to American Electric Power.

The State Highway Patrol post in Canton reported a fatal car crash in Jackson Township caused by inoperable traffic lights out because of the storm.

Miriam S. Rusanowsky, 75, of Akron, was killed. Three people were injured.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)