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Pa. county gets federal aid


Residents of Somerset County, Pa. in southwestern Pennsylvania

now live in a federal disaster area following two tornadoes that struck neighboring towns on May 31 and June 2.The federal designation, signed June 8, by

President Bill Clinton, means residents of several communities including

Salisbury, West Salisbury and Pocahontas, will be eligible for assistance

in rebuilding or repairing homes damaged by the storms.

In addition, local governments will be eligible for aid to assist in

cleaning and repairing municipal property. This aid is particularly needed

in Salisbury where the government's annual budget is just $60,000.

With winds as high as 200 mph, the May 31 tornado struck Salisbury,

nearly wiping out its business district and seriously damaging more than 70

homes and other buildings. A local teenager was killed when debris fell

onto the family car.

On June 10, more than 40 faith and community leaders met to begin to

organize a local disaster response organization to help coordinate

long-term recovery for the area. Meetings are scheduled throughout the

month to begin to address the un-met needs of local residents.

Church World Service (CWS) has sent 170 cleanup kits and 150

personal care kits to help Salisbury area residents.

While volunteers from Mennonite Disaster Services have already begun to

repair some farm buildings in the area, the community is asking most

volunteers wait until needs are better identified before coming to the

town. However, canned goods and other nonperishable food items are needed

by disaster relief workers.

One of several twisters to be reported in southern Pa. May 31, the

Salisbury tornado left a trail of

destruction for nearly 15 miles from west of Salisbury to the tiny village

of Pocahontas, nine miles to the east near the Maryland-Pennsylvania state


Preliminary damage assessments found 43 buildings, in the

town of 734 people, were totally destroyed.

The tornado struck the center of the town, caving-in the roof of a new

firehouse, knocked the steeple off the Church of Christ and heavily damaged

Newman Funeral Home and O'Donnell's Old Fire House Restaurant. It also

destroyed Maple Mountain Industries, a furniture factory and one of the

area's largest employers.

After pummelling Salisbury, the twister travelled east, tearing through

dairy farms. At

least three homes were destroyed in the village of about 30 homes.

After viewing the destruction and visiting with parishioners whose homes

were damaged, Pastor David J. Whitacre of the Salisbury Church of the

Brethren said he was amazed more people were not killed or seriously


Updated June 11, 1998

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