Jackson Township looks back at tornado that hit community one year ago Monday

10:59 PM, Apr 28, 2003   |    comments
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The areas of Jackson Township hit hardest by the tornado look nothing like they did one year ago after almost $40 million dollars of repair. New homes stand where piles of rubble stood a year ago. Jerry Larocca and his family have a new home where their old one was destroyed. The family moved back in November after living in an apartment for seven months. When the tornado occurred, it put into action a series of events that emergency personnel had spent countless hours training and preparing for. "I felt very comfortable that what we practiced came together and came together well," said Jackson Township Fire Chief Ted Heck. "We were very fortunate not to have casualties and not to have fires." What the fire department didn't have that day was the ability to quickly get in touch with other emergency agencies. "April 28th of last year demonstrated there is an extreme problem with communications when there is a disaster in the community," said Ed Cox of Emergency Preparedness. The problem is one facing communities around the country but is now getting federal attention. What helped save the day last April was the work done by amateur radio operators out of a room in Stark County's Emergency Preparedness Center. "They had the ability to do networking that the county safety services didn't have," said Cox. While volunteers may have been a big help with communications in the operations center, out at the scene, volunteers quickly became part of the problem. "We weren't prepared to handle that many volunteers and they literally rolled around us, went in and helped people who were asking for help and those who maybe needed help and didn't ask didn't get the assistance right away," said Cox. As a result, Jackson Township has put in place a game plan for dealing with volunteers to make sure they're a help, not a hindrance. The path of destruction of the tornado was six miles wide. About 350 buildings were hit, causing $38 million dollars in damage. No one was killed.

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