Ohio governor declares emergency after fatal storm

DAN SEWELL Associated Press Published:

MOSCOW, Ohio (AP) -- Gov. John Kasich declared an emergency Saturday and mobilized state resources after storms blasted through southwest Ohio and destroyed about a quarter of one Ohio River village, which counts a town council member among the three dead in the region.

"It's like a bomb went off and everything is splintered," Kasich said after touring the village of Moscow.

Kasich said he talked by phone with President Barack Obama on Saturday but didn't request a federal emergency declaration. He said officials are still assessing the damage.

In Moscow, pieces of insulation and rugs hung from trees Saturday as some of its 225 residents awaited word on when they could return home -- to clean up or start over. Authorities allowed people to return only if they had specific needs, such as retrieving pets.

Village native Steve Newberry, 36, went into town Saturday with his mother, who was permitted in to pick up medical supplies.

"This half is gone and that half is damaged," he said, pointing to the village. "It's a mess."

Village Administrator Sandra Ashba estimated that 25 of the 100 homes and other buildings in town had been destroyed and said several dozen more were damaged, including the village hall.

The shingled roof of Kay's Antiques had been blown about 20 yards onto a hillside, and a 4-foot stone statue of a woman carrying jug was toppled in the yard. Like many buildings in the area, the shop's windows had been blown out, and they were covered with cardboard.

Bricks had been knocked off a building, and piles of wood pieces and roofing were nearby. Many trees in the area had been snapped sideways or split down the middle, their battered branches littering the roadsides.

"It's just devastating," said Sen. Rob Portman, who represented the area when he was in the U.S. House and also toured the village Saturday.

Possible tornadoes were reported in at least six Ohio cities and towns on Friday, including a possible twister in the Bethel area as storms from Kentucky crossed the Ohio River, according to the National Weather Service, which was surveying parts of the area to determine the extent of the damage.

Around the state, damage reports included downed trees and power lines, a roof torn from a fire station, the flattening of a gas station under construction and a mobile home blown into a street

The storms were part of a system stretching from the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes that killed more than three dozen people in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Alabama.

In Ohio, three people were killed, and more were injured.

Moscow Village Council member Carol Forsee, 64, was found dead in her home Friday in Moscow, said Clermont County spokeswoman Kathy Lehr said. Fifty-four-year-old James Prater was found dead in his mobile home in Bethel, about 35 miles southeast of Cincinnati, Lehr said. She identified the third victim as 58-year-old Bill Adkins of Bethel.

As many as eight people were injured, Lehr said. She didn't know how severe the injuries were.

At least 25 homes in Bethel were damaged, including at least four that are considered a total loss, Lehr said.

Residents in Moscow were trying to stay positive, with many saying they think they can rebuild, as they did in 1997, when the town was ravaged by flooding. The village also has some historic Underground Railroad sites, but there was no word Saturday on how badly they were damaged.

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Associated Press writer JoAnne Viviano in Columbus contributed to this report.