By Mike Grant
The Washington Times-Herald
WASHINGTON — Sycamore Street in Washington looked like a war zone. A tornado swept across the west side of town leaving a path of destruction and frightened people in its wake. The storm blew through town turning a quiet Sunday afternoon into a few minutes of terror.
“It hit hard,” said Roger Watson standing outside of his badly damaged home at 501 Sycamore St. “I could see it (the tornado) bouncing down the alley behind the house. I tried to go out the back to my Mom's, but it just threw me back inside the house and knocked me down. I curled up in a ball and I could hear the windows blowing out.”
Watson's home lost its roof, and so did several other homes through the Sycamore Street area. One vacant home was picked up off of its foundation and thrown several feet. The back side of Crackers was completely smashed with cement blocks thrown everywhere. Neighbors said it hit quickly. “I heard the sirens and went inside to the bathroom,” said Rebecca Hollanberg, who lives at S.W. Fourth and Sycamore. “I was inside for about 30 seconds and then the whole house started shaking. It felt like forever, but it didn't last long, and when I came out there was a tree on the house and the door was damaged.”
Washington Street Superintendent Ernie Evans is convinced the damage was the result of a tornado. He shot video of it from his home on Vincennes Avenue as it crashed into the west side of town. “I saw it, and it threw up debris,” said Evans. “I lost track of it about the time it hit Hudson's over around the shopping center.”
Officials say the storm hit Ettienne's Farm Market, damaged homes out around Cindy Kay Drive, hit the shopping center on the west side, WAMW, and Reid's Deli, then down along Sycamore before stopping close to Meridian Street.
“That's where we got hit the hardest,” said Mayor Joe Wellman. “Beyond Meridian we just had some spotty damage around town. City Fire Chief David Rhoads said six homes in total were completely destroyed by the tornado.
While there was plenty of damage authorities had no reports of injuries from the storm, but for at least one resident it was a close call. “I was standing on my porch and could see stuff flying around in the air,” said Tim Garcia of 306 Sycamore. “I yelled for my wife to head to the basement and I ran to the basement steps. Just as I got there a board hit me in the head. I went on down into the basement. The sound was a roar, but almost as soon s I got in the basement it was over.”
The tornado took the roof off of the house and tossed it into the street. “When I came up out of the basement I could see the sky.”
City crews and residents tried to bring things back together in the damaged areas, bringing in heavy equipment and trucks. “We got every crew we could out and working as quickly as we could,” said Evans.
“One of the biggest problems we had was the number of gawkers,” added Wellman. “People kept getting in the way as we tried to clean-up and get the power back on.”
Wellman imposed a dusk to dawn curfew in the city. There is hope, city officials said, that power could be restored to areas of the city that were not damaged very soon. Area schools are closed Monday.
Even with all of the damage residents along Sycamore Street know it could have been worse. “I”m feeling extremely lucky,” said Garcia, pointing to the rubble on his porch. “I'm glad I moved when I did.”
“I've been through hurricanes and earthquakes,” said Watson. “This was the worst, way worse than anything I've been through.”