Neighbors Help Northeast Ohio Tornado Victims

CANTON, Ohio (AP) - A family who lost their home to a tornado doesn't have to go far for temporary shelter.

A next door neighbor of July and Bob Ellis invited the couple and their two daughters to stay in her house for the four to six months needed to repair their home. The neighbor recently moved into a nursing home.

Other neighbors took in the family's dog, two hamsters and two fish after a tornado ripped up their house Sunday.

"It was the fastest moving job we've ever done," Judy Ellis said. Some of their helpers "were complete strangers, but they were neighbors."

The tornado moved eastward along a 5-mile line, skipping amid homes and businesses and causing damage expected to total millions of dollars. No serious injuries were reported.

"This is certainly as bad as anything that I've seen," Gov. Bob Taft said Tuesday, while standing by the ruins of a house.

The Western Stark County Chapter of the American Red Cross said Tuesday that 38 homes had major damage, 25 homes had been destroyed and three businesses had major damage.

Another resident, Melanie Johns, said many neighbors managed to get together for a candlelight dinner Sunday night, during the power outage after the storm.

"We wept together, we laughed together," she said.

Federal officials were expected to review the damage in Jackson Township to help determine possible aid for storm victims.

Ohio Emergency Management Agency spokesman Dick Kimmins said that if at least 25 homes or businesses were severely damaged, the agency would establish an office in the township to process loan applications.

Kimmins said individuals could apply for low-interest loans of up to $200,000 while businesses could borrow up to $1.5 million. Those who don't qualify for the federal loans still could be eligible for state grants of up to $14,800 for uninsured property losses, he said.

Those who don't qualify for federal loans still could be eligible for state grants of up to $14,800 for uninsured property losses, Kimmins said.

Township trustees Tuesday passed an emergency resolution requiring anyone involved in the repair business in the township to register with the Ohio attorney general during the next three months. Trustees said the were trying to prevent transient scam artists posing as contractors from taking advantage of disaster victims.

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