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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Ohio One of Worst Hit States

Aired November 11, 2002 - 05:22   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: As we've been saying, a solid line of strong and deadly thunderstorms stretched overnight from the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes. It looks like Ohio is one of the worst hit states.
Patrick Bell of CNN affiliate WBNS in Columbus joins me now live from Van Wert, Ohio.

What's the situation there, Patrick?

PATRICK BELL, WBNS CORRESPONDENT: Boy, I tell you, Heidi, it's very bad. Quite unbelievable damage here. Van Wert Ohio, just to give you a reference, is a sleepy town in northwest Ohio. Yesterday, around 3:00 Central Time, Eastern time, actually, four tornadoes simultaneously on the ground at one time ripped the western part of this small town. It devastated neighborhoods. It tore up a movie theater, even just obliterated a business park on the north side of town.

Two people were dead. One fatality was in the parking lot of this movie theater. A man was in his car. It was thrown around like a piece of paper. The other fatality was out in rural parts of Van Wert County, where a home was obliterated, killing a resident there. Seventeen people injured in these storms, four critically. They were flown to a Fort Wayne, Indiana hospital just across the Ohio-Indiana border.

The damage, as I mentioned, quite unbelievable. Here we are 13, 14 hours after the tornadoes rolled through. Power outages still plague this county. Live wires down just about everywhere. You can see behind me an Ohio State Trooper is blocking the street here. We're about a mile from the damage, that's how bad it is, and we find that all around the epicenters of this damage, police are guarding this very closely.

There have been reports of looting to the northern part of looting to the northern part of this county into Putnam County, which is a county just north. So the National Guard, it is a, Governor Bob Taft did declare this area a disaster area, which means the National Guard and state troopers are here assisting these homeowners anywhere they can.

But clearly, Heidi, pieces to be picked up here. People just want normalcy. They want to get back to a life that won't be normal for quite some time, unfortunately.

COLLINS: I imagine not. And, Patrick, I don't know how long you've lived there, but have you ever seen anything like this before in this area in particular? BELL: Boy, I tell you, not this late in the year, Heidi. We talked about how these storms are really indicative in spring or early summer. But in the middle of November in Ohio, Heidi, we get snow. We don't get storms like this.

COLLINS: Right. BELL: But as you can see, Mother Nature is, you know, quite finicky these times of years. And it's unseasonably warm. These storms blew through quite unexpected.

COLLINS: All right, well, those pictures are pretty incredible.

Patrick Bell, we do appreciate it.

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