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Story by Aubra Salt - The Oregon Herald
Published on Tuesday December 14, 2010 - 1:19 PM
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Updated 5:41 PM
AUMSVILLE, Oregon - A tornado swept through Aumsville and the surrounding area just before noon yesterday. Homes and building were heavily damaged, including the city's fire department. The tornado swept through the town quickly, according to witnesses.

One of the hardest hit in the area was T.G. Nichols Plumbing. And a home was severely damaged by a tree uprooted by the wind and another home was blown off its foundation. A local resident said he saw a large metal roof fly by at high speed along with other debris.

A large pole barn was "completely demolished" as the storm moved through Aumsville.

Another resident said a large building at his location was "flattened" and several homes were damaged.

The twister was like a small tornado, likely an F0 to F1 on a scale that tops out at F5, much smaller than the large storms that develop in the Midwest. Winds were likely between 65 to 100 mph.

Witness Jennifer Aarons said the twister hit just before noon, and she ".. had not heard that anyone was hurt badly." However another report indicated one man was cut up.

"It sounded extremely loud outside," witness Stefania McCully said. "My lights started to flicker and I opened the blinds and I saw the huge tornado behind my back yard. The sucker was probably three times as big and up to the sky. It's just creepy, the thing was so big ... I'm just a little frazzled."

City clerk Colleen Rogers saw it all: "It was such a crazy moment, I was just looking up through the front windows, the trees were bending and it was more of a swirl ... it just dawned on me that it was a tornado and it was about to hit," Rogers said. "Probably about the point we saw the roof come off the plumbing building we heard the roar."

Shelly Nealon said the powerful wind slammed her home in Silverton. She said her home has many windows and she could see a huge, black cloud coming, which enveloped her home and hail started falling, too.

"I was scared to death," Nealon said. "I grabbed my dog and we went under the stairs. It reminded me of growing up in Nebraska."

"We have major damage," Marion Hill with the City of Aumsville said. "I started seeing the debris ... we all got under our desks, we heard it get kind of quiet and got up and looked and saw the debris from the plumbing company."

Jennifer Aarons described the scene of destruction "like a bomb going off." Another witness said the town was hit by heavy rain and hail just before the lights began to flicker and a roar could be heard pounding and moving over them.

Another eyewitness: ""You could see a tail dropping from it, it was so quick, it was like seeing someone snap a whip. It went down and came right back up."

"It was like a path that came from City hall and went right down the street and ripped through our houses."

Gary Cupp watched the tornado rip the roof off a nearby building:

"I was sitting in my car. It sounded almost kind of like a freight train," Cupp said. "And I look over and all of a sudden it's like an explosion, like, a building blew up, is what it was."

A 72-year-old woman had just made breakfast and was looking at the rain outside her window when raindrops began hitting the windows hard. Very hard. "I saw dust a flying and debris, chunks of paint and roofing. I thought, 'Oh my god, tornado!"

The old woman ran into an interior hallway and rolled up in a little ball, squeezing her eyes shut, hearing the tear and loud noise of the tornado.

She got to her feet, found her heart medication and shoved it into her pocket. She then walked, nearly ran toward her son's house next door. Her son's wife Linda Catron was running to find her. Their house had been hit as well. Sartin grabbed Catron's dogs, Buster and Miley, who were loose.

"I looked up and saw the top of my house wasn't' there. It's across the street, out in the front yard and over at the neighbors. It's a mess."

Power lines are reportedly down all over the town and the streets are full of debris. A woman affiliated with a local church said they'll be opening the facility to assist resident. She also said local fire and police personnel were on the scene assisting residents.

Anyone needing shelter as a result of the tornado can go to the Bethel Baptist Church at 645 Cleveland St. or the Aumsville Community Center at 555 Main Street. The Red Cross also offers shelter at the the Mountain View Wesleyan Church at 111 Main St.