Friday, September 22, 2000

Spared in 1974, but not in 2000

'Xenia has not been good to us'

By Lew Moores
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        XENIA — Less than one mile separates residents in two areas of this city who have experienced the cruel slap of ferocious winds in the past quarter-century.

        Jane Ellison was living in her house on June Drive when a tornado slammed into the Arrowhead subdivision less than a mile away on April 3, 1974. Shingles were ripped from her home and her storm doors were blown off.

        That tornado just gave her a slight slap. But elsewhere in the city, it killed 33 people in a town of 25,000, injured another 1,600 and damaged more than 1,400 buildings and homes. Property damage was estimated at $400 million.

        Wednesday night's tornado wasn't so kind to Ms. Ellison. On Thursday afternoon, she stood with her husband by the garage of their home on June Drive and thought about the history.

        “Xenia has not been good to us,” said her husband, David Ellison, whose mother lost her home to the tornado of 1974.

        This time, the June Drive home lost more than shingles and storm doors. The front porch was gone. Mr. Ellison was told it was in the Wal-Mart parking lot a few blocks away. Much of the roof was missing.

        “This is our home, this is our kids' home,” said Ms. Ellison.

        Mr. Ellison was in the garage working on a car, his wife in the house. Mr. Ellison heard the garage door rattle and wondered what it was. Next thing he knew, the garage door blew in and knocked him over. He crawled under a car.

        Ms. Ellison heard it and knew what it was. She ran to the bathroom and sought refuge in the shower.

        In a few moments, both emerged and gazed at a street that had suddenly been turned upside-down. The street was strewn with broken tree limbs that held the yellow and pink insulation of walls that had been split open and sheared off.

        Mike Posey's wife, Jill, made it to the bathroom while he searched for the family dog in their house on June Drive. On Thursday morning, it looked as if the front of his home had been surgically removed.

        “By the time I picked the dog up, the stuff was hitting the side of the house and then it was hitting me,” said Mr. Posey, who has lived there 12 years. “I fell and it was over. Then it was so quiet, it was amazing. It hit and it was over.”

        Lewis Shingle heard someone screaming in the driveway Wednesday night. Then he heard his girlfriend say, “Oh my God.”

        They got as far as the hallway of his home when a back wall caved in.

        By mid-morning Thursday, family and friends were helping clean up. Furniture and lamps were loaded into a pickup.

        A block away, on Drake Drive, an elderly woman was sweeping the wind-blown leaves from her sidewalk, her home intact, as neighbors pulled the cords on chain saws.

Complete coverage of the Xenia tornado:
Gallery of photographs from the scene
The path of the twister: Infographic
Few warned of twister
7-year-old helped others dig out of smashed church
Psychologist: Fear of storms can be dealt with
- Spared in 1974, but not in 2000
The Enquirer's special 25th anniversary coverage of the Tornado of 1974

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