EAST LIVERPOOL - An East End family is virtually homeless after a towering tree fell through its Martin Street home Sunday night during a torrential rainstorm.
During the 8 p.m. thunderstorm that swept through the area, Talisa Lewis was upstairs taking a bath while her husband, Frank, was sitting on a couch downstairs with a guest, Andrew Vogel.
Mrs. Lewis' sister, Natalie Rodriguez, had just walked across the room to remove a window fan.
The living room wall of this Martin Street house in East Liverpool was obliterated by a falling tree Sunday night. The occupant, Frank Lewis, was sitting on a couch against this wall when the tree fell. (Photo by Jo Ann Bobby-Gilbert)
"We thought it was getting breezy, so I was getting the fan out of the window, and the wall just started to fall in on (us)," Rodriguez said, saying the electric had flickered off and on also.
"It was pretty terrifying," she admitted, saying that Vogel later found their dog hiding under a bed upstairs.
Lewis said he thought at first the roaring noise he was hearing was from a tornado, having experienced one in the past.
"It sounded like a real strong wind," he said.
He began screaming for his wife to come downstairs, Rodriguez said, adding, "We thought it was a tornado and took off running to the basement."
The wall behind the couch where Lewis was sitting collapsed from the tree falling on it, leaving behind a gaping hole.
Upstairs, the bed he and his wife share was nearly covered by the falling roof, while a set of bunk beds where his 6- and 7-year-old children sleep were completely covered with tree branches, with the wall an open hole to the outdoors.
His children were expected to return home from Michigan last weekend but didn't, for which Lewis was obviously thankful as he surveyed the damage to their bedroom.
The couple, their children, two dogs, cat and three fish had moved to the rental home owned by Patrick O'Hara about three or four months ago, and Lewis said he had not even thought about purchasing rental insurance, pointing out the falling tree would be considered an act of nature, "So, we would have been out anyway."
He said the house was perfect for his family, situated as it is near the former East Elementary with its ball fields and with its own comfortable backyard.
"It was perfect for the kids. They could play ball across the street. It has a nice yard. Then, this happens," Lewis lamented, as he looked at the tree pressing into his home.
"All my stuff we worked for is gone," he said, adding his children are supposed to come home Wednesday but now have no home to return to.
The couple had located another potential rental by Monday afternoon but found they had another predicament: Not enough up-front cash to move in.
While their landlord did agree to return their deposit and a half month's rent, Lewis said that $700 still leaves them $400 short of what they need to get set up in the new rental they found in Wellsville.
"Now, we're basically homeless. We have no place to go," he said, but expressed hope that things will work out for them.
Some of the tree's branches also struck a house next door to Lewis' but the elderly owner's son said she was also not injured, nor was her home damaged.