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After dangerous tornadoes in Ohio and Indiana, survivors salvage, reflect and prepare for recovery

A storm's trail of destruction affected people in parts of Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Arkansas on Thursday night. At least three people in Ohio were killed, dozens hurt and even more reported damaged homes or businesses by Friday.

Residents sorted through rubble, reflecting on the fear the storms caused and their relief at coming through physically unscathed. They briefly rejoiced over recovered possessions, tempered by the cleanup ahead.

LAKEVIEW, OHIO

Ron Watt knew the roaring sound coming from the west — “like a freight train, several of them” — was trouble. But without a basement, he had to make a split-second decision to grab his chihuahua and run to the east side of his house in Lakeview ‘’ about 70 miles (112 kilometers) northwest of Columbus.

Watt said he wedged his body between a couch and a freezer, then threw a sleeping bag and pillows around them.

“And about that time, to put it bluntly, all hell broke loose,” he said Friday morning.

For Sandy Smith and her family, tornado sirens Thursday night were their signal to get inside their home's laundry room.

“A couple flashes of light, and then everything just peppered against the house,” she said, adding that her husband then saw their garage “blow away.”

After the storm passed, Smith and her family sheltered in their flower shop that they own down the street. They were able to save two of their cats and a dog, but were searching for two more Friday.

“It could’ve been a lot worse than it was,” she said, choking up. “We’re just blessed to be alive.”

Blaine Schmidt, 34, said he heard sirens moments before the storm hit. He and his roommate sheltered in the bathtub, using a shower curtain to ward off broken glass.

“I’m lucky to be alive,” Schmidt said Friday.

The front of the house had been peeled open. The remnants of a couch were visible and toy dinosaurs were scattered across the front lawn.

Schmidt sifted through broken glass and splintered wood, looking for anything salvageable. Among his rescues: A guitar and a stack of diapers wedged under his arm.

WINCHESTER, INDIANA

In the eastern Indiana town of Winchester, a retirement community in the south of town was near the direct line of the storm. Resident Romona Platt, 81, grabbed pillows and ran into her bathroom.

At one point, she worried the door was moving so she braced it with her hands as the raging winds howled.

"Just snap, crackle, pop, boom, boom, boom,” she said, describing the sound of the tornado. “I thought the whole house was gone.”

Friday morning, many of her home's windows were shattered and her roof was partially ripped off. Several pieces of wood punctured straight through the wall of a bedroom. But a puzzle she had been working on remained completely intact.

Damage around the town of 4,700 about 70 miles (110 kilometers) northeast of Indianapolis included a Goodwill store missing much of its roof and a leveled fast-food restaurant. The storm also destroyed the Church of Christ in Winchester.

A hymnal from the church lay on the other side of the highway Friday morning, open to the song “Shelter in time of storm.”

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Bickel reported from Lakeview, Ohio and Volmert reported from Winchester, Indiana.