- The Washington Times - Monday, August 18, 2008

CUMBERLAND, Md. (AP) | Janet Stevens pauses when remembering the 210-mph tornado in 1998 - she still hears the roaring, raging winds, still sees scattered shards of glass where her home was.

The family’s home was destroyed in the June 2, 1998, tornado that also damaged and destroyed homes for hundreds of other people in Western Maryland.

Minutes before the tornado tore apart the Stevenses’ home, Mrs. Stevens rescued her twins - Alex and Tristan - from the attic bedroom where they were sleeping.

They ran into the basement and laid down - Alex on top of Tristan, Mrs. Stevens over Alex and husband Jay shielding all of them.

After the F-4 tornado passed, the family saw stars where the ceiling had been, water flowed from broken pipes, and furniture piled against a basement door.

The Stevens family and others in the Eckhart and Frostburg communities avoided injuries because Marylanders took tornado warnings seriously after one storm ripped through Pennsylvania two days before, Mrs. Stevens said.

“We had actually gone to the basement three times, then came back up when nothing happened,” she said. The fourth time, the tornado hit.

Mr. Stevens said he was flipping through TV channels before the storm, then he hit one with the loud weather alarm that said, “A tornado is imminent in Eckhart at 9:33 p.m.”

“I looked at my watch and remembered wondering how accurate it was,” he said. “We got into the basement, and that’s when I went for and got the dog. When I got back, the lights went out.”

The family now lives in a new home, finished 10 months after theirs was destroyed. Mr. Stevens said the family isn’t just thankful for a new home; they’ve found a new way of living as a family and see life differently.

“The tornado strengthened us as a family,” he said. “We live five minutes at a time now.”

Another family, the Harmans, suffered less by comparison. Their home received about $45,000 in damage.

When JoAnn Harman got word of the coming tornado from her father-in-law, her son Eric was on the second floor watching TV.

“So I got him, and we started for the basement,” Mrs. Harman said. “When we reached the kitchen, the roof blew in and landed on the bed.”

Her husband, Keith, was in Morgantown, W.Va., on a business trip. He said he heard of the tornado at 11 p.m. from a Georgia telephone operator. The operator told him, “I have a message for you. Nobody is hurt, but a tornado has hit your home in Frostburg.”

An hour later, Mr. Harman was home in Frostburg.

By 1 a.m., he and his wife were staring at their home in the darkness, wondering how bad the damage was. Eric was safely with Mrs. Harman’s mother.

When the sunrise gave the Harmans a glimpse, they saw their home was missing a third of its roof and other floors were badly damaged.

Two months later, the Harmans were living in their repaired home. And Mr. Harman found some help - and some humor - in the community’s response.

“People started showing up and helping,” he said. “We had no idea who some of them were or with whom they were affiliated…. There were reporters and TV helicopters everywhere. I was disappointed I didn’t get to see myself on TV.”

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