Yesterday evening, Athens county was struck with a severe thunderstorm. In a matter of minutes, electricity was blown, wind gusts cut through branch limbs, and tornado sirens blared. Several tornadoes touched down in Nelsonville and The Plains area. The main roads to The Plains are still closed, causing congested traffic. Police have certain residential streets blocked with department vehicles while the extent of damage is being assessed.
Wanda Whitam, a resident of The Plains, is one of dozens faced with a ravaged home. Sitting at her dining room table, she surveys the damage. Last night, there was little time to react. Mrs. Whitam recalls, “I heard the sirens, then this sound. My son Dana said it was coming. There was no time to go anywhere.” A chunk of her roof was torn off, leaving an unwanted skylight over her living room. “It threw me against the wall. I thought I was done,” she said.
Though the tornado was brief, the damage is extensive. Now off kilter, the mobile home is at a slant. Groceries litter the floor along with pieces of glass. One of Mrs. Whitam’s dogs went missing soon after the storm. Luckily, Rocko, returned and was found waiting under her bed.
Though sitting in the remnants of home, Wanda still can’t help but smile. The kindness of the community has been abundant even in only 24 hours. A stranger was offering soup to residents this morning and a tiny pizza shop, Little Italy, was giving away food. “He said he was sorry because they ran out of tomatoes” Mrs. Whitam said, “And I said don’t worry. I have plenty on my floor, and we laughed.”
But now is a waiting game. Mrs. Whitam’s landlord left for Texas, but is attempting to return to Ohio to start the insurance claim process and hopefully, help Mrs. Whitam find a place to stay. Having no renter’s insurance, she’s unsure of what the outcome will be, but having rented from the same man for almost a decade, she’s hoping he’ll know a way to help. Until then, she has a sister down the road to stay with or remain in her mobile home that just received a roof tarp from a family friend. Though this is a difficult time, Mrs. Whitam seems assured that it will work itself out and if the community has proven anything in the past day, it is that many are willing to help in any way they can.