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local-history-and-genealogy-logoTornado of 1985 - Memories from Around the Valley

See a sample of photographs from our larger collection at the Photographic Memories page.


Submitted: March 12, 2007
Niles, Ohio

I was about three years old at the time, living in Newton Falls. I remember that it was a HOT day. I was sitting on the front porch with my uncle, playing with a paper plate. All of a sudden, huge balls of "ice" (I didn't know it was called hail at the time) started falling from the sky. My mother and father were playing volleyball in our yard, and they were getting pounded by the hail. At the same time we began to hear some very loud noise. My parents weren't concerned because there was construction going on nearby. Then our phone rang and my mother ran into the house to answer it. No one was on the line. She began to walk away and it rang again, she answered, and no one was on the line. This happened several times, we still don't know why. The rest of us joined her in the house because the weather was getting so bad. A few minutes later my aunt came blasting down the road in her car. She was screaming, "Are you all okay?" We didn't know what she was talking about. She then told us that the tornado had just passed through. We went outside and looked at the woods next  to our house, and the tops of all of the trees were missing. We had no idea, because we thought that all of the noise was from the construction. After that we had to walk to town for anything we needed for weeks. We were also fed by the Red Cross. Rumor has it that there is a newspaper photograph of me standing with a woman from the Red Cross just two days after the tornado.

My father was a police officer, so he had to do search and rescue. He went to an old woman's house and came home with a bone chilling story. The old woman was close to 90. She fell asleep in her rocking chair with her cat in her lap. Her entire house collpased around her, and many large pieces of the home were missing. When my father found her she was still sitting in the chair with the cat, unscathed. She was in shock, but she was blessed. It was the only part of the house that made it through the tornado. If she had been anywhere else in her home she would not have survived.

God Bless all of the souls lost in the 1985 Tornado. Anyone living in Newton Falls, where the tornado was an F5, should consider themselves blessed by God. There were no fatalities in our city.

Submitted: March 7, 2007
Lee A McCree

I lived in Mespo Ohio  in 1985.I had been back home from the US navy for a little over 2 years. I had gone to Bloomfield park on that day to hang out with some friends. The weather that day was very windy also humid and then we would get these drops in temp. and sprinkling rain. some of us were saying it looked like It was gonna be a rainy day.
I joked that it was going to Tornado ( we thought that was a great joke we had never seen or heard of a tornado in Mespo-Bloomfield)
We Left the park as it started to shower harder , and ended up at  "Brite-Spot" It was a little gas station/candy store with  pool tables in the back. As we lounged around we noticed a couple cars stopped in the  road  where Rt 87 and 45 cross. The people were standing in the road looking west towards Mespo.
We stepped out it was raining and the wind was very fast. I looked to see a large black whirlwind coming down rt 87. We could see parts of trees and other  items being blown around and away from the cloud. As we watched the tornado started to travel towards the north passing across 87 about 4 miles away.
Very close to my parents home
I started to run towards home, after about 1/2 a mile one of my friends caught up to me in a car .
we able to drive to just before Coombs Rd  where the road was blocked by several trees.
I jumped over the trees and started home
as  I approached our house I passed the Saddler's home it was on fire it had been hit by Lighting.
When I got to my house I  was shocked.
My parents had two dwellings on this land
the house was gone with only the roof lying on the ground. The mobile home my parents had was gone, only some twisted parts of the frame wrapped around a broken willow tree in our front yard. Near the end of the Drive way I saw my father standing by a tree he seemed to be in shock.
I asked where my brothers, sister and Mom were. He replied they are at the Biles house next door. I looked at the Saddler's house  burning then at our house totally broken and thought my father was in shock and that my family had been in the house and were trapped under the roof.
As it turned out they were next door the storm had spared the Biles Home.
However my Family was in the house when the Storm knocked it down (By the Grace and Mercy Of God they were spared any harm) the roof of the house was moved about six feet before falling down. a wall had trapped my  mother for a short while. That night my family went to Warren and I spent the next week sleeping in a Car at the sight of my Car

Side note I went to work for The Warren Trumbull community service Agency helping other victims in the area  In Dec of 1985 The Youngstown newspaper did a story on my life after the storm
Submitted: August 10, 2006
Tracy Straface-Moore

Memory - Wow...I have very vivid memories of the tornado of 1985, although it almost seems like a dream because those are not things that u hear of happening in this area very often.  I was 17 years old and a senior at Howland High School preparing to graduate in a week.  That day I was standing outside talking with a friend and all of a sudden it started pouring down rain and the hail was awful but very huge.  My mom, dad, and brother were at my brother's baseball game on Howland hill (Mines School).  Before my friend was there I had been taking a nap so I was not aware of any weather warnings or anything.  We were standing in the garage watching it storm and commenting on the color of the sky and just could not believe all the hail and all of a sudden it was like someone turned of a faucet and the rain stopped just as quick as it started.  The everything was so silent that you could here a pin drop....there were no birds singing, seemed like all the traffic on the road left, there was no breeze what so ever and everything had a green/yellow look to it and the sky was a grey/blue color....something i will never forget as long as I live.  Next thing I knew we had no power and it was so hot that day and the humidity was high.  My parents and brother had then came home from the baseball fields and informed me that there was a tornado that had gone through the area and the path that it took   The news reports on the radio kept coming on and saying all the different places that the tornado had touched down and all the damages that were done.  We then heard about the roller skating rink in Niles, Ohio that had been destroyed and just a few hours later there was suppose to be a huge skating party there and plan was for there to be alot of people there and my brother was suppose to be one of them.  There was also a brand new nursing home that was right up the street from the skating rink, Autumn Hills Care Center that was due to open and get their first patients either that day or the day after...well of course that was postponed.  Anyway the radio had also reported things that had been damaged around the Champion, Ohio area as well and the is where my boyfriend (now husband) had lived so I got on the phone and kept trying to reach him and was not very successful and of course went into a panic.  The friend that had been at my house tried to leave and his car had broke down so my mother had to give him a ride home, he also lived in Champion....well of course I made my mother drive past my boyfriends house to make sure it was still standing.  The next day my friend and I went and began to volunteer to help with some of the cleaning up in Newton Falls and that time the devastation and all the sadness was just so over whelming.
A few days had gone by and we still had no power and a lot of other places did not either.  Graduation day approaching and our ceremony was due to be at the Packard Music Hall in Warren, Ohio.  The heat had been so stifling that they were debating on where to have our graduation because with our class being so large and all the people it would be entirely to hot in that building.  A bunch of people were saying a prayer that the power would be restored so that our graduation could take place as planned.  Now that I am older and looking back that all seemed like such a major thing and at that time never stopped to think about all the families that were having it worse off because their homes were destroyed and their belongings were strung to where ever.  Graduation was such a big deal and at that age one does not really stop and think.
I also remember that my best friend was working at the Red Barn at the corner of Rt.46 and 422 and she told about the flying debris that she saw coming down the road as she was waiting on a customer and one of her coworkers that actually saw things flying toward them and he grabbed her and threw her to the ground.
My brother also had a story of his own.  When he was at his baseball game and on the pitching mound he turned around to check his players and at that time looked into the sky and was able to see the funnel cloud off at a distance and he was not sure which direction it was coming at that point yelled "tornado."
Well there are tons more memories that I do have of that tornado but the only words that I can say is what a complete mess and such total devastation!!!!!!!

Submitted: May 30, 2006
Kevin Carlini
Pleasant Gap, Pennsylvania

At the time I was 14 years old and living with my family in Youngstown, Ohio.  That evening, my mother, older brother and sister had gone to Boardman to do some shopping at The Southern Park Mall. I can remember being inside of Spencer's and hearing the weather warnings on the radio....Severe Thunderstorm watches and warnings.  Later, after shopping at the old Bargain Port on South Avenue, we came back to our car and witnessed an ominous looking sky.  The top half was completely black and the bottom was white. Perfect conditions for funnel clouds to drop down.  Nothing happened thank God. Later that evening I can remember watching the usual line-up of Friday night television shows, only to be interrupted by those scary "TORNADO WATCH" and “TORNADO WARNING" screens that would just pop up without warning, along with the loud buzzing siren.  My heart would almost leap out of my throat when that happened.  I can remember Stan Boney and I believe Rich Morgan coming onscreen to talk about and discuss what was going on throughout the night. Mostly it was just the warning screens. Tornadoes spotted in Niles, Lordstown, Wheatland/Weatherfield, Columbiana County, etc.  They were everywhere.  I was almost afraid to go to sleep that night but my Mom convinced me around 11:00 or so that everything had passed through other counties. The next day was a bright, sunny and beautiful day.  Channel 27 showed live footage all day of the clean-up in Trumbull County.  Finally, I will never forget the huge black-type headline from the Youngstown Vindicator: "Killer Tornadoes Rip Through Valley", or something close to that.  The headline filled almost the entire front page.  An awful day in the history of the Valley, but many improvements in weather warnings were made soon after.  Now, the warnings come quite sooner, and all are taken quite seriously.

Submitted: February 21, 2006
Patrick Vrontos
Warren, Ohio

I was 7 years old I was in the Eastwood mall with my brother and mom. I was in Walden Books with my mom and my brother was in the store next to it, the toy store that is still there today. The lights went out. We heard a lot of noise and next thing you know it was going by the mall headed for the Niles new skating fun place. Also, my grandpa's house was on still wagon road and was ripped up. It was thrown on to the street and all that was left was the basement. This was the the 1985 Tornado that will live in my memory.

Submitted: February 8, 2006
Justin J. Hering
Lock Haven, Pennsylvania

My memories of 1985 are few and far between, as I was only almost 3 years old. However, the night of May 31st I can remember quite clearly. I didn't understand what a tornado was, all I knew at that time was a very bad thunderstorm was coming our way. My parents sent me to my aunts house in Allenwood, PA, just in case the storm hit Milton. As it turned out the storm hit very close to Allenwood itself, within a 1/4 mile of my aunt's house. I've discovered recently it was an F3 at the time. I recall constant thunder and rumbling, and very intense lightning. I remember being very frightened and crying myself to sleep.  I was very fortunate that this was the extent of my experience as I understand that others affected by this outbreak had much, much worse of an experience. To this day, any time severe thunderstorms move into my area I become very nervous and can't stop watching the sky.

Submitted: May 2, 2005
Jan Vaughn
Cortland, Ohio
I was working at the Bristol Public Library on May 31, 1985.  It was a very, very hot Friday, leading into the Memorial Day weekend.  After work, my husband and I decided that it was just too hot to cook at home, so we went down the street to a small restaurant.  During our meal, the electricity went out.  We went back home and decided that a nap might be in order since the power was out.  My mother phoned duirng the nap, yelling that my brother had almost gotten sucked up in a tornado (he was living in the northern part of the county at the time).  My husband and I were dumbfounded, since we had no clue that there was any bad weather.  We turned on a battery powered radio and started to hear what had happened.  My husband's family lives in Niles, so he was especially concerned.  We kept phoning and phoning and finally were able to establish that the were OK.  We still had no power the next day, so on Saturday we went out to Bristolville to make sure the library was OK.  On Sunday, we ventured into Niles through several back ways.  The destruction was sobering.

On a side note:  My husband's best friend had been a customer inside the convenience store across from Niles Union Cemetery on May 31.  He came out of the store, looked up, and saw the tornado coming.  He jumped into his truck and floored it, escaping.  The lady right behind him, however, perished when the tornado demolished the building.

Submitted: May 19, 2005
Warren, Ohio

I remember the 1985 tornado I was so scared and my family was all huddled in the basement in a corner but it came about 1/4 of a mile away! But our house only got siding and stuff knocked off and one window busted.

Submitted: May 19, 2005
Dominic Alexander
Boardman, Ohio

I was working at Squaw Creek Country Club as a bus boy the evening of the storm. I thought it was just another bad thunderstorm which was not uncommon for trumbull, when we were told to hurry and go down to the basement as a precaution. I looked outside and there was quarter size hail falling all over the 9th green which was just next to the club house. After the storm had past, we were told to go home early. I was 18 at the time and I had only a few bucks in my pocket and not enough gas in my 76 cutlass supreme to get me home to the west side in youngstown. The phone lines were down, and hadn't called my parents yet, i figured my mother would be worried sick. I drove home down belmont ave. to fine it was blocked due to downed trees. It was incredible to see the tornado's path which crossed over belmont ave. There wasn't a tree standing in it's path. The trees were uprooted, twisted and mangled. I noticed it just missed the mobile home park, which is still there today. I tried to go down logan way and it was also blocked by downed trees. I ended up going to a little gas station near route 82.  The electric was out at the station and we had to hand pump the gas out of the tanks into 5 gallon buckets then pouring the gas into our tanks using funnels. I had just enough money to get enough gas to return home. Finally, I ended up taking route 82 to route 11 to find out my parents didn't even know there was a storm. Well, at least they didn't worry.

Submitted: May 26, 2005
Roselyn Gadd
Girard, Ohio

My family in Niles was involved with the tornado. My mother was trying to get in touch with my uncle whose house was surrounded by National Guard. Everything in that area was secured by the NG because possessions were scattered everywhere and looters were anxious to take advantage.
My uncle was trapped under his porch with most of his home blown away.
I was so concerned to see my family and friends in turmoil, that I volunteered at the tornado center that was set up at Niles McKinley High School.
The Red Cross had set up a shelter and I worked a reception desk and talked to many tornado victims. I have many stories to share
1. A mother who said she saw her baby beig picked up off the floor by the wind. She grabbed her baby and saved her life.
2. A resident who had his entire home blown away with nothing left but a coffee table and a lace cloth still remaining.
3. A friend of mine from college who was driving in the car with her husband and was killed by the tornado.
4. A man driving a car and had all off the paint pulled off of his car while his father ( a passenger ) accused his son of speeding.
5. My uncle who lost so many belongings , had his wallet returned to him by a telephone repair man who found all the contents in tact atop a phone pole.

Submitted: May 27, 2005
Roselyn Gadd
Girard, Ohio

I credit Stan Boney with saving my life and keeping me out of the tornado's path. He was the only meteorologist in the area. I listened to his forecast earlier that day (or maybe the previous night) as I was getting ready  for work.
Later that afternoon we planned to get a take out dinner from a restaurant that was located in the eye of the tornado. I remembered that Stan said conditions would be perfect for a tornado. There was not a cloud in the sky but my skin felt clammy and eerie. We opted to stay home and 15 minutes later they said the tornado devastated that area.......Thank you , Stan.

Submitted: May 29, 2005
Evelyn Cruze
Crescent City, Florida

I was living in Howland at the time. We had a garage sale that day After closing it for the day, we decided to go out to dinner. We were seated at Perkins on Elm Road when the power went out. My husband didn't want to wait, so we left and headed towards Youngstown.  As we headed on SR46 towards Rt 82, it looked darker and darker. When we got to 82, we started heading east. We could see power was out all along the roads. When we got to Vienna, we got off and headed towards Liberty. A tree was blocking the road so we turned around and went back to 82 headed west. When we got to SR11, we headed south. We worked our way to Rt 46 in Mineral Ridge and got off to eat there. The wind was so strong; I could feel grit in my mouth just walking into the restaurant.  While we were eating, we noticed National Guardsmen heading towards Niles. As soon as we got into the van, we turned on the radio and heard the news of the tornado.

We heard on the radio that the Sheriff was requesting all personnel to report. My spouse was a special deputy and left as soon as he dropped us off at home.  He helped escort generators to the site of the plaza that had been hit at US422 and Niles Vienna Road.

Our son was to graduate from Howland High School and there was a damper for graduation with some of he classmates impacted by the tornado.

The next day, we boxed up clothes, shoes, handbags, etc. from our garage sale and took them to the Red Cross. We were still without power and would watch the news from the TV in our van. Our neighbor would bring his generator to us for our fridge.  Then use it on his own fridge - going back and forth. We cooked on our charcoal grill.

There are several things that stand out in my mind about all of this. Someone on a radio call in said if the US could send a man to the moon, then the power should be back on. The radio personality was shocked and ended up hanging up on the person after explaining the towers were gone and it took time to fix these things.  Another thing was when we visited a street off  North Road. I picked up a woman who lived on that street and took her to meetings. The neighborhood was so devastated; I couldn't tell where she lived.  But the biggest thing was how on the next day, people still showed up for the garage sale.  Most were understanding that we had decided to donate to the Red Cross, but one jerk wanted to give us $20.00 for what we had left. I thought my spouse was going to smack him, but all he did was escort him off our property.

Submitted: May 29, 2005
Jon Long
Meadville, Pennsylvania
My friend and business partner, Kip Button and I were sitting in our shop in Girard, Ohio. Located across from the city building. We had a radio shop and were listening to police scanners in the shop. when we heard something about a touchdown in gustavis. We went outside and noticed the sky to the north was very dark . The sky above us and to the south was sunny and clear. We kept hearing reports of tornados to our north so being the adventures sort we were , and Kip also being a photographer we decided to close the shop and head north to shoot some film. We made it as far as McKinley Hts. The sky by now was very cloudy. We were stopped by Girard patrolman John Villeco at 422 and Robbins ave. he was directing traffic as the power was out in that area. when it was our turn to go we continued west on 422 toward Warren. We made it just about to the roller rink when we were stopped again. this time by trees and debris blocking 422 it was totally blocked and all the buildings were leveled ! Kip jumped out of the car and ran into the rubble looking for suvivors..I stayed at the car and turned away other vehicles and lookers . Kip radioed back to me about finding bodies that looked like old rag dolls rolled in the mud. It was at least a half hour until the first emergengy vehicles showed up..The whole time we did not take a single picture , caught up by shock and disbelif of the intensity of the devistation. I think today that Patrolman John Villeco saved our lives . If he had not been where he was, directing traffic we would have been there when the twister came through ! I never got a chance to Thank him or tell him but If he reads this , Thanks John !

Submitted: May 29, 2005
Deb Murphy
Warren, Ohio

I was shopping at the Commodore 64 store that day in the Great East Plaza, Niles, Ohio. (Yes, the Great East Plaza had a store that was dedicated to the Commie.) After leaving the store, I noticed a LOT of car horns blowing -- continously, not beeping. It was one solid blow.

I looked over to where Tops is now and saw the tornado in the horizon.

It was huge and filled the sky. It was two shades of black and barrel shaped -- not pointed like some tornados I have seen photos of. The outer shade was rotating up along side of the tornado then coming back down. After looking at it for a while I realised that outer shade was large pieces of people's houses that had been blown apart.

The tornado moved very slowly across the horizon towards what was that roller skating rink.

Though I am a photographer, I did not have a camera with me that day.

I went through the parking lot telling folks to just leave. I remember one lady who frozen when I showed her what was behind her. I swore at her to get her and her child out of that parking lot. She moved then.

After it was all over, I left and went home.

For a few weeks afterwards, I had troubles sleeping -- I could see that tornado every time I closed my eyes.

I've never seen anything similar. It was huge. The closest thing to making that kind of impression on me was the Panama Canal when I saw it last year.

Submitted: May 29, 2005
Frank D. Gibson
Las Vegas, Nevada

I have VERY vivid memories of the Tornado of 1985 , It was my Senior Year @ Lakeview High School , and at this specific time of the tornado I was at work at the Eastwood Mall , at The Dimond Company as a stock clerk , and i remember hearing the Roaring of the Tornado in the back stockroom s if a train was appraoching. i then remember all of the employees at that time running to the back of the store , towards the stockroom in a Scared Panic. At this time i remember hearing my Uncle Jeff ( the store manager ) calling for me , " Frankie ,Frankie " in a tone that I can clearly hear today , a few minutes later It was learned that a deadly twister had just made it way through Niles , Ohio, up Route 422.
Today i am a Proud Father of Two daughters , Courtney 17 and Hannah 2 , I have shared this story and experience with my oldest and someday with Hannah Thank You .

Submitted: May 30, 2005
Raymond Lee
Wooster, Ohio

Twenty years ago I was the City Editor of the now-defunct Niles Daily Times, working in our office on W. State St., Niles.
It had been a beautiful day, although extremely hot and humid. The type of day water-lovers thrived in for a holiday.
Shortly before 7 p.m. I noticed dark clouds in the western sky and also the sunroof on a reporter's car in the parking lot was open. After going outside to close it I glanced at the western sky and thought it odd that the dark clouds moving in seemed to be isolated into a corner of the sky.
I went back into the second floor office to a wire machine and glanced out the western window again, in time to see the oil storage tanks about 1/2 mile away lifted into the air like tin foil. A giant twister was making its way into the city.
Chasing the few workers in the office to the basement, I grabbed photographer Bruce Palmer from the darkroom and we jumped into my car. We drove down to Robbins Ave and with the tornado about 2 blocks north of us, we continued down Robbins toward McKinley Heights where we lost the twister. We started working our way back to downtown.
I vividly remember as I watched the spinning monster speed through neighborhoods, you could actually identify some of the debris begin sucked into it. Wood from houses and garages, large pieces of would be easy to be mesmerized by the sight.
From the length of time this destructive storm had been on the ground, the amount of damage was unbelievable. Houses lifted from their foundations, others gone with only the basement as proof there had once been a house. Houses stood with one entire wall gone while the remainder stood untouched – complete with pictures on dressers still standing.
As we continued our walk, we stopped to help people from their basements. Through debris-ridden yards amazing stories of survival began to emerge. Stories of heroism began to be told and then stories of how vast and complete the destruction of the storm began to unfold.
As news from other parts of the city began to filter in, it quickly became apparent this would be the storm forever embedded in the minds of the residents. From Newton Falls to the west to as far east as Wheatland, Pa., the storm had been unerring in its path and in its intent to destroy any challenge it confronted.
Storm victims were also interested in how much damage there was in surrounding areas. As they emerged from what remained of their homes, first accessing injuries and then damages, their thoughts were from helping their neighbor to can we ever get back to normal?
We also believed they would want to know what happened to their town as well as who, what and more importantly when, they might get some help dealing with the aftermath.
We returned to our office. Like the entire city, we had no electricity and no telephones. We realized that if there was to be a paper published for the next day, it wasn’t going to be from here.
Bruce was able to process the several roles of film he had taken on our excursion, but printing them wasn’t going to happen.
By driving out of town, we were able to find a payphone that worked. We contacted a sister-newspaper in Massillon and arranged to have the paper published there. With out Sports Editor Mike Tenney and reporter Jim Flick returning from the girls softball tournament in Columbus, we packed them, photographer Bruce, Fred Kearney and a couple of folks from our production department and headed to Massillon – about a two-hour ride.
The people there gave us a brief course on their newer, updated equipment and we set out to put together a newspaper. This small group of employees of Phoenix Publications pulled together and we finally made it back to Niles about 9:30 the next morning with 10,000 copies of what would become known as “The Tornado Edition.”
We relied heavily on conversations with various members of the Niles Police Department along with continuous reporting from radio stations while we traveled to gain a better understanding of the widespread nature of the damage and realized quickly that now that we had an edition dealing with the destruction, we would spend what turned out to be months following up on the city rebuilding. From the Federal Emergency Management Agency to the local Interfaith Relief Council, we would provide people with information as the recovered from the property damage and grieved over their personal losses. The close calls with death and the ability to reach deep inside to find strength to deal with what occurred was a constant reminder of the danger the city faced that day.

Submitted: May 30, 2005
Kathleen Klinger Goodwin
Meridian, Mississippi

The night the massive tornados ripped through the area I was working at the  Youngstown Reserve Base.  The lights went out and I found a radio in the Club Manager's office.  We heard about the tornados and one that touched down within a mile of the base.  The bar was closed immediately (although non-alcoholic drinks were available).One of the patrons, Mary, worked with the Red Cross and immediately got folks together and formed teams to help victims.  All these people who were "partying" without a care in the world came together to help wherever needed.  The base community pulled together and forgot about themselves and volunteered several hours/days to help those in need.

A friend of my Mom's took me and my sister, Karin Klinger Goolsby, to her house (we picked up my sister on the way).  Most of the phone lines were down along with most power lines so we kept listening to the radio to hear if any of our families and/or friends were hurt or killed.  It was very scary not knowing if our Grandmothers, Aunts, Uncles, and cousins were still alive.  It was a great relieve to know they were fine and they did not have any damage to their homes.

My class, Lakeview High School Class of 1985, was due to graduate in one week and we weren't sure if we would still be having commencement on the football field.  We did graduate as scheduled, but I have to think that the mood was just a bit somber because of what happened a week earlier.

I remember riding around with my Mom, Dolly Klinger, and my sister.  The damage was unbelievable.  There were curtains hanging in trees and debris scattered everywhere.  There would be half of a house standing and the house next to it would be untouched.  In one area residents spray painted signs indicating "This Way to Oz" and "Dorothy Lives Here."

Niles Union Cemetary was very eeiry with all the trees destroyed.  I can still picture the roof off the one building.

I still have newspapers from the days immediately following this disaster.  The pictures, horrific as they are, don't begin to tell the story of the damage left by the tornados that night in May 1985.

This is one evening and one event I will never forget.

Submitted: May 30, 2005
T. Milko
Guyton, Georgia

Graduations were in order, parties being formed, 6pm news weatherman said,"We have a mixed bag of weather out there". It was sun, clouds, rain, hail. Next thing we heard was the roar of the train thru the woods behind us. We went out back,looked to sky & ran down to basement. My mom saying, wait I have to get my purse, it has kids grad money in it. By the time we ran to basement trying to find place to hide, we could see sunshine peering thru the windows & a calm air outside. It was over...fortunately we werent hit, but disaster was imminent. We lived in Newton Falls for 35 years. Never seen anything like it!

Submitted: May 30, 2005
Tracy E. Taylor
Cortland, Ohio

I was just 17 when the tornado hit Niles but I remember it like it was yesterday. I was getting ready to go skating that night when a friend of mine came over and told me that he was not allowed to go. So instead I decided to stay home and go swimming. I had just changed back into my swimsuit when the power went out. My friend and I heard people screaming outside and went to see what was going on.  When I opened the front door, I could see the tornado coming up the road. We then ran to his house across the street because he had a basement and when we got to his front porch we turned to see the tornado.  At that very moment, it was tearing through the Eastwood Arms Apartments. We stood and watched the twister until it was out of sight. I then grabbed my camera and headed down Rt-46 to the Union Cemetery and Convenient Store and took some pictures. It looked like something out of a war movie. Buildings were gone, cars tossed up into the cemetery like matchbox cars. I had overheard some people talking about the destruction at the top of the strip (RT-422) so I jumped on my bike and headed up to the skating rink.  When I got there, the plaza was gone and the skating rink was gone.They were just leveled. I took a bunch of pictures and headed back home. When I got there I found my mother very upset. You see, she was at work when all this happened. And when one of her co-workers came back to work because she couldn't get past the top of the strip, my mother flipped out because the woman had told her that the skating rink was gone and the last thing my mother knew was that I was going skating that night. With the police not allowing cars up to the rink, she went home very upset and it didn't take too long for me to show up. When I did, I'll tell you, I've never seen her more relieved. Of course I got grounded for taking off and not telling anyone where I was, but she didn't make it stick. I think she was just happy I was unhurt. But it is a day I'll never forget and it is a story I share with my wife and kids today...

Submitted: May 31, 2005
Donna Schrader
Lordstown, Ohio

our lights flickered as my husband bob and i left home. going north on highland ave. in lordstown.we saw the tornado coming. we turned around in the drive that the tornado came across. we watched as the transformers by republic steel exploded taking warren's power, what a sight,the sky alive with things flying through the air and many explosions. i took the car, against my husband's advice. highland was blocked so i drove through trees and blockage on route 45 to go to work at warren general hospital. whoever could get to the hospital was assigned something to do.  we helped nursing, did admitting, transported patients.  when word of a second tornado came, we prepared for the worst again. about 2-3am, i was able to leave. i discovered my car had no gas. i drove to my blessed parents home, nick and julia kovic, a few streets from the hospital. everywhere was pitch black, eerie. i pulled in their drive to dead silence then i heard a noise close to me. the area had formed a block watch for the night. my precious parents let me take their car to go home. the volunteers, workers, even those hurt and their families were amazing.  the cooperation, caring, use of experience all played into making this disaster as smooth and efficient as possible.
when we saw the tornado, it appeared to be going toward our home.  as we were going south toward home, it turned and took the path of destruction it left. i couldn't get my car filled up for a couple of days. everywhere you would go, you could see the destruction in the eyes of any one i came in contact with.  BUT, also, you could hear the need to help. many, many volunteers are to be given a special star for that time.
that time is something etched in memory, the good, bad, ugly of it but most important, the caring, help, volunteerism formed that day.

Submitted: May 31, 2005
Amie Davis
Niles, Ohio

My memories of May 31st 1985 are a bit sketchy at best.  I was only 7 years old the day the tornado ripped through our city.  My mother, sister and I headed to Waddel Park to pick up my brother.  We were not able to find him so my Mom took us to the Dairy Queen with out him.  While we  were in line at the Brazier a man pulled my Mom's arm and said "lady look at this!" As I peaked out the door I saw the monsterous storm.  I understood what it was but I questioned my mother as to what all the smoke was.  I understand now that that was the debris cloud.  The tornado was so big that it was hard for the adults to tell which way it was moving.  After the storm had passed us my mother tried to quickly get us home. Unfortunately every road to our house was blocked.  All the phones were down.  It was hours before we knew if our home was still standing.  Some how we found my brother and a friend of the family who allowed us to stay the night with them.  My father was home and was alerted to the tornado by our dog who ran up and down the stairs franticly until my Dad got up.  My family was very fortunate.  Our home was not damaged and we were all ok.  In the days following the storm we were with out power for what seemed like a very long time.  I remember all of the neighborhood kids piling into my neighbors Suburban and watching a little black and white TV that ran off the battery.  I also remember what looked like Military jeeps and soldiers (Must have been the National Guard) waving to me on our street.  The aftermath of the tornado left me with a fear of storms.  For years every time it would thunder I would cry. And I am not alone.  At the age of 27 my best friend Jenny is still terrorfied of storms.  My hope is that even though it has been 20 year since that horrible day in our history that we remember not only the lives that were lost but the spirit of our friends and neighbors when faced with tragedy and never underestimate the power of Mother Nature.

Submitted: May 31, 2005
Chris Hyde
Mt. Airy, Maryland

I grew up in Johnston Twp. (northern Trumbull County) and was almost 10 years old at the time of this event.  This event is what inspired me to get into weather.  I was an observer for Stan Boney at WYTV and COOP observer for the NWS Cleveland office.  I went to Penn State to study meteorology.  I am now a meteorologist, consulting with 250 energy companies across North America, working in the Washington D.C. area for seven years now.  My job anniversary, ironocally enough, is May 31st.

Submitted: June 8, 2005
Tara Michele Hanshaw-Lewis
Wales, UK

My name is Tara Hanshaw (now Lewis) and I grew up in Niles, Ohio, and vividly remember the tornado of 1985.
I was 5 and was at a baseball game with my friend, Meredith Shiley, and her father, Andy Shiley, who was the coach, I believe.  It was a beautiful day and Meredith and I had talked my mom into letting me go with them.  Mom had been laying out in the back yard reading 'It' when I left.  We spent most of our time wandering in the trees (I do not remember which baseball field it was, but it wasn't in Niles).  Our team won the game and the coaches took us to the Dairy Queen.  When we left, the sky took grey/green.  There were two girls hiding under a table and we thought it was funny.  Then, we were waiting in line for our ice cream and a man came over the loud speaker and told us to get under the tables. It started to hail really hard outside.  I just stood there and a man pulled me under the table with Meredith, who was crying because she was scared about her cat.  I remember telling her it was going to be alright and patting her on the arm (apparently my sense of fear wasn't completely active at age 5).  I remember it being so loud we covered our ears and I remember as if it were yesterday seeing the tornado go past through the windows.  We were really scared and wanted to go home to Niles to make sure everything was still there, but we couldn't get back into Niles because of the damage and went to stay at someone's house, I think it was one of the other parents'.  They gave me ET pyjamas and I slept on a cot in the basement.  They couldn't get through to our parents that night because there were no phones.  I remember Andy ('Andy Panda') fiddling with a ham radio.  I later found out that my dad, who had been at work at Easco Aluminum when it hit, got in his car and raced back home to make sure that we were alright.  He couldn't get past the distruction at the Union Cemetary and the Convenience store- we lived at 1400 Gypsy Lane.  He abandoned his car and ran all the way home to find that I wasn't there because mom Meredith and I talked her into letting me go with them to the game.  She and my baby sister, Jessy (only 7 months old at the time) and my litte brother, Eric (nearly 3 years old) were in the basement; the back windows had all blown in, but otherwise we were fine.
I was taken back home the next day; our houses were still there, our cats were still there, and my parents were was sitting on the front steps; my mom was hysterically crying.  They gave me such a hard hug when I got out of the car!
I cannot believe it has been 20 years.  It is something that has always stuck with me, caused nightmares; I used to panic and hyperventilate when I heard trains.  I think it is so lovely that everyone's experiences and memories are logged so that we always remember and find solace in one another.
I am sorry for the late entry, but I am living in Wales now with my husband and my mom only just rang me to let me know about this.

Submitted: June 10, 2005
Stacy Ebert
Dacula, Georgia

I was playing softball in Nile when the game was called early due to the weather. On our way home, we saw what we thought was a smoke stack from Republic Steel. It took a minute for us to realize that it was a tornado and that it was headed for us. My father told my mother to pull the car over so that we could get into a ditch, but my mother refused. I had two brothers at home alone.  We did make to our home where we all got into the basement.  The tornado did not dit our home but did destroy a house across the street.

Submitted: June 28, 2005
Carrie Smith
Delaware, Ohio

My name is Carrie Smith, and I live in Delaware, Ohio.  But on May 31st, 1985, my name was Carrie Miller, and I lived in Mesopotamia, located in Trumbull County, Ohio.  I was eleven years old, and had just finished the sixth grade.

I will never, ever forget the day the tornados hit.  A year or so before, my brother Brian (two years younger than me) had developed a morbid fascination with - and fear of - tornadoes.  He worried about tornadoes the way other little kids worried about bullies at school, or a bad grade on a report card.  He was obsessed with the subject. Every day he would ask me and our parents and anyone else that remotely resembled an authority figure:  “Do you PROMISE there’s not going to be a tornado today?”

He saw tornadoes everywhere.  Every oddly-shaped cloud that crossed the sky, every thunderstorm, every tornado drill at school (we had several that May in 1985) – he was convinced these were all harbingers of tornado doom.  We spent an awful lot of time re-assuring him on the subject, back in those days.

May 31st, 1985 arrived warm and glorious.  It was a Friday – the first day of summer vacation - and as a special treat (or maybe as a bribe to keep us from harassing her to death on our first day home),  Mom took us into Middlefield to get a bunch of library books.  During the trip to the library, my brother of course took the opportunity to ask his standard question:  “Do you PROMISE there’s not going to be a tornado today?”  We replied in the negative and promptly dismissed the subject once we arrived at the library.  I came home with a tall stack of books, and luxuriated in burying myself in my room, determined to enjoy the school vacation and pleasure-read the day away.

It wasn’t long before my reading was disturbed by a loud, rhythmic sound.  It sounded as if my brother was indulging in one of his destructive habits with the neighbor kids again.  In fact, it sounded as if all nine of the neighbor children and my brother were outside with hammers, banging on the hood of our pickup truck, parked out in the driveway.

I looked out the window, but the neighbors were nowhere to be seen.  My brother, however, was wandering around the yard, picking up something that gleamed on the ground.  The light was odd – yellow and green and black and blue all at once – and my curiosity got the better of me. I gave up my book and went outside to investigate.

The ground was littered with hailstones the size of quarters.  We were fascinated.  Heedless of the hail that continued to fall, striking skulls and backsides sharply, Brian and I wandered around, competing to see who could find the biggest hailstones.  Meandering toward the front of the house, we gained a clear view of a large, purplish-greenish-greyish cloud that looked as if it were just across State Route 534, instead of high in the sky.

“Look, Brian” I teased.  “Doesn’t that cloud look like a tornado?”

“Nah,” he said disparagingly, assuming (and rightly so) that his older sister was merely trying to torment him.

It was then that we heard the shrieking and running.  Turning around, we saw most of our next-door neighbors (who also went by the surname Miller) running pell-mell into the yard.  “It’s a tornado!” yelled.  “Get into the root cellar!”  The neighbors had no basement to their house, and so had come running over to us.

In amazement, Brian and I followed the neighbor children into the house.  Their parents were away for the day, and Mom was baby-sitting their youngest child, less than a year old (the other children were considered old enough to fend for themselves for an afternoon.)  Mom, having heard the commotion, wasted no time hustling all of us into the basement, where we automatically dropped into tucked-head positions at various points around the damp field-stone walls.  The neighbor baby fussed a bit, but aside from that you could hear every breath that each of the twelve of us drew, huddled in fear and disbelief.

After what seemed like an eternity, Mom let us go upstairs.  Peeking out the windows, we saw no sign of the twister that had touched down just across the road.  The sun was shining again and the birds were singing.  No damage appeared to have been done to our property or the neighbors’.

We spent the rest of that summer building sheds and barns and roofs and painting sheds and barns for people who were not as fortunate as us and had lost those things.  Some people had lost everything; there were clothing drives and food drives and that year I think there was a fund-raiser at the annual Mespo Ox Roast.

But after that May 31st, my brother never again asked, “Do you PROMISE there’s not going to be a tornado today?”
Submitted: September 14, 2005
Jeanne Baugh
Warren, Ohio

I remember how Valley Counseling Services -the name has been changed since 1985.  Al Beynon was so instrumental with helping victims to deal with their emotional healing. If you have any articles of the Mental Health Board under the director of Rich DarkAngelo or Al Beyonon's assistance with our Valley's role in aiding with the physical or mental health of 1985 please post!
Submitted: September 17, 2005
Tammy Stitt-Mixter
Darlington, PA

I to was living in Niles at the time of the tornado. I lived on a street called Wood glen. It is the first street to the right off of North road. Needless to say our home is no longer there. It was destroyed that day I have very strong memories of the day since I along with my four year old daughter was in the house as it was being torn apart. It was a very hot and humid day. I had come home from work just as my husband and eight year old were getting ready to go to his baseball game at Wadell park. I chose to stay home do to the heat. I kept my daughter with me since I did not think she needed to be in the heat either. To entertain her I gave her a small bowl of cereal while I went and took a quick bath. As I was getting dressed I heard what I thought was a large piece of heavy equipment moving down our street but when the house started to shake I new what it was. I ran to get my daughter who was sitting in the middle of our living room still eating her cereal. I grabbed her and ran to a different room but I wasn't sure what to do because we did not have a basement for us to go to. For some reason at that point I reached over and pulled back the curtain just in time to see my neighbors house being pulled apart. It was sobering, I just froze for a moment. Then I knew I had to find a place for us to go. The only thing I could think of was to reach over and pull a sofa on top of us. But my little girl was very frightened and was trying to run from the loud noise coming towards us. I knew I could not let go of her and as hard as I was trying I could not pull the sofa over with one hand. The best I could do was to get her on the floor and slid the cushions from the sofa on top of us by then I didn't have any time left to think about where to hid. It just all happened. Every thing was shaking, things were smashing against the walls, hitting us, our ears were popping like they would when your on a airplane. The noise is deafening. I just stayed there holding her down. Then suddenly it was quiet, nothing was moving there was silence. Your afraid to get up for fear its not over but at the same time your afraid to stay where you are. As we got up we could see out side we had no roof. We did have some walls. As we made our way back to our living room I saw a huge tree in the middle of the room right where my little girl had been sitting. Her cereal bowl was still on the floor with the spoon still in in but all the milk and cereal was gone. We could not exit the house that way due to the tree. We turned around to get to the back door our path was clear. As we stepped out the back door I instinctively looked at my neighbors house. To my horror it was flat. As I stood there looking at this house wondering where are the three people I knew was in there. I saw some boards moving and a head popped up out of the debris. All three of them had made it to the basement in time. As the neighbors gathered out in the middle of the street. Each house had a story to tell as well as the people in them. No I will never forget that day. It has changed my life forever.    
Submitted: November 7, 2005
Sonya Crooks
Newton Falls, OH

I have very vivid memories of that day. I was only 13 at the time. I was visiting my grandparents, as I did every Friday when my parents went out. I was playing a game with a friend. The lights started to flicker and went out. I thought that was odd since lights don’t go out unless there’s a storm. By the time I reached the kitchen I heard my grandfather say he heard a train, but it wasn’t on the tracks. I yelled, “Tornado!” and that was it. We didn’t have a chance to reach the basement. I was sucked against the wall and it blew my glasses off my face. When it was over and we went outside it looked like a bomb went off. I remember the clock stopped at exactly 6:42 pm. I also remember the sky was a strange green color, I was told that was the debris in the air. It was extremely humid; there wasn’t any breeze; there were no birds singing. Something else that I thought was odd was that there was no warning at all. There was nothing like they show on TV; no rain, no thunder, no hail, nothing, it just dropped out of the sky. I still panic every time it storms.

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