Friends, strangers rally to help raise spirts of storm victims


GALION — The recovery from damage left by the tornado that touched down in Crawford County on Monday is only just beginning. And it will continue for weeks and months to come.

Gerri Payne lives on Ohio 598 north of Galion. She was in her kitchen making a strawberry pie when the sound from the storm moving through changed drastically. Gerri and her son immediately knew something was wrong.

“We received the text advising of the possibility of flooding, and immediately got out empty storage tubs to protect things down in the basement,” Payne said. “Once we were back upstairs I started to make a pie, and suddenly everything outside got quiet.”

Moments after the quiet, the noise of what sounded like a freight train was roaring outside. Gerri and her son immediately headed for their basement.

“When we came back upstairs, one of our front windows was shattered by a post from our front porch and water was pouring out of the light fixtures.”

Payne discovered soon after that a large portion of her roof was gone. Her front porch was torn off of the house, and her garage was completely collapsed on top of her minivan.

The twister sucked nearly 10,000 gallons of water from her above ground pool and destroyed the deck surrounding it, but the pool itself was completely intact. The swimsuits that had been left out to dry earlier in the day, were still hanging on the fence.

Not far beyond Gerri Payne’s residence, across a few fields of soybeans and some wooded areas, is the home of Zach Keller.

The Keller family had also received the notification of possible flooding, but went to bed not long after. There was no indication that the storms moving through would be anything more than an expected severe thunderstorm.

They were wrong.

Soon after putting their three young children to bed and getting in bed themselves, Zach and his wife were awakened by the sound of debris plummeting against their house. They immediately rushed to get to their kids and get to the basement. When they got to the room of their seven-year-old daughter, a tree was coming through the wall.

By the time the Keller family got to the basement, the twister had passed them.

When the family emerged from the basement, they had to crawl through the mess and rubble inside their home to get outside and assess the damage in the dark. Even now, days after the storm, it’s difficult to comprehend the magnitude of the mess they are dealing with as a result.

The day after the storm, Keller and other area residents were visited by the National Weather Service. “

They said we were right in the center of the tornado based upon the track the believe it took,” he said.

Regardless of that, Keller says “We are fortunate. We are all safe and have a place to stay with family.”

“The people who have come out to help has been unreal,” he said. “We have received calls, texts, and emails from so many people, its almost impossible to respond to everyone and try to clean up at the same time. The amount of help and kindness from complete strangers is overwhelming.”

Around the corner from Keller, on the corner of Krischbaum and Nazor roads, is a property owned by Steve Carr. This land has been owned by his wife’s family for years. Her family built the beautiful white barn on the west side of the property in 1928.

Most likely, the barn will be a total loss.

“We had a wedding in the barn nearly 10 years ago,” Carr said. “My wife is having a hard time with the idea of losing it.”

Not only is Carr facing the loss of a sentimental barn structure, but a machine shop he had on the property is also completely gone. Proving the unpredictable nature of a tornado, Carr had three corn planters stored in the shop that were moved by the force of the storm, yet a much older lightweight sprayer was still resting in the exact spot it had been for a long time.

Despite the damage to the barn and machine shop, the house owned by Carr had minimal damage.

“We lost some shingles and siding, but nothing major,” he said.

Just south of the storm path on Leesville Road, Shawn and Vicki Spangler were thankfully spared from any heavy damage to their home.

Two of their vehicles were not as lucky.

The Spanglers had gone to bed with their windows open just to listen to the storm. Like most residents of the area, they didn’t expect much more than an average thunderstorm, until the sounds outside and the high winds alerted them that this was much more than an average event.

“When we got up to shut windows and see what was going on, our youngest son came from his bedroom in the front of the house and seemed almost dazed. He told me he was wet. I went into his bedroom to find his screen blown in as well as sticks and other debris all over his room,” Vicki Spangler recalled.

At the same time, their middle son happened to look outside on the other side of the house and notice a major problem. A very large old tree had been uprooted, and landed across two of their vehicles. The cars are expected to be a total loss.

“Once the storm had calmed down, all I could think was that I didn’t want the morning to come,” said Spangler. “I knew that seeing the mess in the daylight would be difficult.”

To her surprise, the shock of seeing the damage in the daylight was met with approximately 20 volunteers with chainsaws and also a Bobcat to help not only the Spanglers, but also the neighbors.

The Spangler family echoes the sentiments of others trying to recover from Mondays tornado. The best of humanity has come out to help. From cases of donated bottled water, to a volunteer fireman purchasing 30 cheeseburgers from McDonald’s to feed other volunteers, the response at their property has been overwhelming.

Vicki Spangler feels blessed, despite the loss of property.

“The tree that came down, fell just short of our house. It may have taken our cars, but our home is fine. It could have been so much worse,” she said.

There are a couple of fundraisers planned locally to help the victims of the Labor Day tornado. Contemporary ArtSpace in Galion will be donating all proceeds from their Family Paint Night on Sept 15th to help Gerri Payne, and students at Galion Primary School are having a Loose Change Drive next week for which proceeds will be given to the American Red Cross.

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Tornado damage to the home of Zach Keller on County Rd 330 just outside of Crestline.
http://www.galioninquirer.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/38/2017/09/web1_storm-1.jpgTornado damage to the home of Zach Keller on County Rd 330 just outside of Crestline.

Storm damage to the home of Zach Keller on County Rd 330 just outside of Crestline.
http://www.galioninquirer.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/38/2017/09/web1_storm2.jpgStorm damage to the home of Zach Keller on County Rd 330 just outside of Crestline.

A barn dating to 1928 shows heavy damage on the property of Steve Carr from the tornado near Crestline on Monday.
http://www.galioninquirer.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/38/2017/09/web1_storm3.jpgA barn dating to 1928 shows heavy damage on the property of Steve Carr from the tornado near Crestline on Monday.

Photo from the path of the tornado across County Rd 330 near Crestline.
http://www.galioninquirer.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/38/2017/09/web1_storm4.jpgPhoto from the path of the tornado across County Rd 330 near Crestline.
Friends, strangers rally to help storm victims

By Erin Miller

Galion Inquirer

Reach Erin Miller at emiller@aimmediamidwest.com or 419-468-1117 x-2049.

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