NORWALK -- Teams of volunteers are helping Norwalk residents clean-up after Monday's destructive storm.
"Today we're doing visual damage assessment and we call that in," says George Scheckelhoff, of the Huron County Community Emergency Response Team, "and then teams of volunteers will come out and help homeowners with their debris and get it to the tree lawn so the city can pick it up."
Scheckelhoff, former principal of Westlake High School, moved to Norwalk with his wife Patti when they reitred.
On Monday, they went door-to-door in the storm-damaged city, asking residents what help they needed.
It's unbelievable," Scheckelhoff observed. "They say it's straight-line winds, so some of them are having insurance problems. So we'll have to see."
Residents say winds of at least 60 miles per hour came out of nowhere between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Monday and ripped down trees in a west-to-east pattern.
One homeowner said it felt like the winds hit 100 miles per hour.
"Everybody was OK. My son was OK, and that's all I'm worried about," Neil Creary pointed out, as he and two friends started clearing enormous maple tree trunks from his yard on East Main Street.
The giant tree which crashed across his and a neighbor's lawn was an historic site in Norwalk.
"It has been here longer than the house has," Creary pointed out. "We figure the tree is in the neighborhood of 175 to 180 years old."
The 100-foot maple was already well established when Creary's house was built in 1863.
"It was here when they held a Civil War benefit in this house, and when the house later became a brothel and then a motorcycle gang headquarters," Creary said, with a tinge of sadness.
Several other maples of similar age took out his chimney and tore holes in his roof.
A group of volunteers from the CERT team were due at his house Monday afternoon to help with the monumental clean up job.
Not far away, Sydney Chicoteo found her house would be unihabitable for a while. An enormous maple tree destroyed her kitchen and, because there is a gaping hole in the back of her house, all the electricy had to be turned off.
Across the street, Kyle Smetzer was still shaking his head in awe about how he, two other adults, and a sleeping 4-month-old baby escaped with their lives.
"If that tree would have fallen on the house, we would have been dead," Smetzer admitted, as city crews and volunteers sliced up the mammoth maple tree which crashed a few feet from his house during the height of the storm.
"We would have been dead because we were right there in that front room," he said, realizing how close it was, a distance that could be measured with a yardstick.
"We were feet from dying."