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In Xenia, Recovery Begins

The tornado that slammed Xenia, Ohio was on them in a heartbeat — so fast, the National Weather Service never got a chance to put out a warning, CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod reports.

It ripped off roofs, flipped over cars, twisted silos, and mangled and vacuumed off their foundations.

"I was in Vietnam for 16 months, and six or seven days of bombing never resulted in what happened here in five minutes," said resident Lewis Schingle.

One man died when this tree crushed his car, and 14 others were taken to hospitals. In all, a terrible tornado.

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But one look at Xenia Thursday could make you think that the miracle is that it wasn't much, much worse.

Beverly Moore was inside her house watching a movie when she heard trouble.

"You could hear glass shattering all around us. Things breaking, things hitting. It was just terrible," Moore said.

In central Ohio, a second tornado that hit about an hour after the Xenia storm damaged about 15 homes north of Columbus in Delaware County. There also was damage to homes and businesses in neighboring Licking County, including damage to 12 barns at a large egg producer, Buckeye Egg Farm.

Ruby Godfrey was in the Dayton Avenue Baptist Church in Xenia when she heard hail pound the roof, which was eventually torn off.

"We're hitting the floor, getting under pews. You heard the roar. You saw the roof flying off and then it was gone," Godfrey said.

Gov. Bob Taft issued an emergency declaration for Xenia, and he toured the area Thursday.

Crews searched through the night for possible storm victims in the rubble of a grocery store that collapsed, though there were no reports of anyone missing. Nothing was found as of daybreak Thursday, but one more search was planned at the store and other buildings that were hit.

All that remained of the Groceryland was a tangle of steel girders, drywall and insulation. But cans of food still could be seen stacked neatly on a shelf inside.

Substantial damage also was reported at a Wal-Mart store where cars were overturned, utility lines fell and trees splintered. Windows were shattered and walls collapsed.

The tornado gave some people in Xenia a flashback: 26 years ago, another tornado touched down in the same town. Thirty-five people died then.

"Well, I went through the '74 tornado when we had it here and it brings back a lot of memories. It's awful," one woman said.

Awful, perhaps, but still a far less frequent event in the tornado belt this year. Tornadoes are down 30 percent this year, the least number of twisters in the United States since 1989.

©2000, CBS Worldwide Inc., All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press also contributed to this report

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