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11-14-02: 'Almost everything we own has been blown'
Celina native loses home due to tornado

The Daily Standard
    TIFFIN - A last minute decision to stop for dinner after shopping Sunday afternoon probably saved the lives of Celina native Nancy (Lochtefeld) Harvey, her husband Chris and their 2-year-old daughter, Megan.
    The Harveys' five-bedroom home was one of four reduced to rubble by one of several tornadoes that roared through northwest Ohio last weekend.
    Standing in the debris that was the living room, Chris Harvey, a Van Wert native, said it was "flukey" they weren't at home.
    "Our daughter Megan saw a Cracker Barrel restaurant and started chanting to stop and eat. So we decided at the last minute to stop," he told The Daily Standard on Tuesday morning amid the rubble that just days ago was his living room.
    Untouched by the storm, the houses across the street are pristine, the manicured lawns basking in the morning sun giving the whole scene a Dali-esque appearance.
    The Harveys' home was a direct hit in the two-house-wide swath the tornado cut as it bounced through the subdivision, taking a roof off here and there en route to ground level where it destroyed all in its path.
    "Almost everything we own has been blown all over, in the trees in back and in fields hundreds of yards away," said Nancy Harvey, who now serves as director of a Seneca County government agency, adding the outpouring of complete strangers has been both comforting and disheartening.
    As the couple surveyed the damage Monday morning, strangers walked through the debris picking up items here and there, video taping each other.
    "It's offensive to have people holding up your underwear out in the yard, laughing and taking pictures," Nancy Harvey said. "I asked them to leave our property, which actually seemed to irritate them."
    The gawkers, including a bus- load from a local retirement center, so clogged the street that the workmen and cleanup crews couldn't get into the subdivision, she said.
    But, others came to help and worked long into the night by flashlight.
    "About 20 or so high school kids showed up and cleaned out the back fence row carefully putting our stuff in a neat row in the yard," said Chris Harvey, a mental health therapist, parting drywall from the rain soaked living room carpet with his boot.
    Strewn through the fence row was currency, part of Nancy Harvey's cashed paycheck, which had been in her day planner on the kitchen counter.
    "The kids brought the money to me as they found it. These are 16- and 17-year olds returning 50s and 100s. So, don't believe it when you hear teen-agers are going to the dogs," she added.
    However, response from the couple's insurance company has been another disappointment.
    "Our insurance adjuster just came today, which puts us behind the eight ball for rebuilding and cleanup. Everyone else in the subdivision had adjusters here immediately," she said.
    She then added she had no idea she would be required by the insurance company to itemize all the family's lost possessions.
    "It's just overwhelming. I don't know how many pieces of silverware we had. Plus they're asking for receipts. I can't believe it. Our whole house was blown away. We still can't find the garage. No, we have no receipts," she said in exasperation.
    They also have no family photos or keepsakes, but next door to the Harveys, their teen-ager neighbor, whose mother died a couple years ago, was able to save her photographs from the tornado.
    Adam Gibson, 15, was the only person at home in any of the houses destroyed in the Tiffin subdivision.
    "We have a weather monitor on our computer and I heard it go off with a severe storm warning. I got up and looked, but ignored it like people do. Then a tornado watch came on which I also ignored," Gibson told The Daily Standard.
    When the tornado warning was sounded he took action. Gibson collected the box of his mom's photographs, his dog Odie, and a pillow and put them in an interior bathroom.
    He called his grandma to warn her, told her he loved her and and then burrowed in under the pillow beside the bathtub.
    "It really sounded like a train going by and I felt it hit the house. When part of the ceiling fell on me I was a little panicky," Gibson recalled.
    When he took the pillow off his head, he saw the roof of the house was gone and he looked up into the dark sky.
    "When I opened the bathroom door, the living room where I had just been watching television was gone, blown away - even the carpet was ripped off the floor," he said.
    Looking over to the Harveys' house, he said he saw the big, five-bedroom home was almost completely destroyed.
    "Some volunteer firefighters just happened to have been visiting in the neighborhood and I saw them running into the Harveys' yard to find out if anyone was home. I yelled for help, and they came over for me," said the slender, dark-haired teen who went on to a neighbor's as the rescue workers went back in for his dog.
    Although there's no way to prepare emotionally for the devastation of a tornado, Gibson said one thing he's learned is to have necessary survival items all in one place. And, know where the things are that really matter to you.


Phone: (419)586-2371,   Fax: (419)586-6271
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The Standard Printing Company
P.O. Box 140, Celina, OH 45822