Family remembers man killed in Wood Co. tornado - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Family remembers man killed in Wood Co. tornado

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Almost three years later, the wind still blows through the rubble in Belleville, W.Va.

Toni Burks, of Ravenswood, remembers how her uncle's house looked; what was placed where.

More than anything, she remembers an email she received from a former classmate on the morning of September 17, 2010.

"'She says, 'Oh Toni, I'm so sorry. There was a tornado in Belleville last night, and your Uncle Joe is dead.'"

An EF-3 tornado ripped through the Mid Ohio Valley in September 2010, destroying more than a dozen homes in Wood County. The twister also claimed the life of Joe Freeman, 57.

Burks, his niece, said it pains her to drive by the empty lot where his house once stood.

"Every time I would come up on this, I would get a lump in my threat, kinda hold my breath," Burks said.

The storm decimated the Freemans' house, where Joe and his wife, Sandy, had lived since the mid-1970s.

Sandy moved to Lubeck, a few miles away in Wood County. She refuses to rebuild the home she shared with Joe, according to Burks. The memories hurt too much.

What remains in Belleville--shards of broken glass, a forgotten t-shirt--reminds Burks that disasters happen everywhere.

"Even if this is in West Virginia, if there's a warning, take it seriously," Burks said. "It does happen, it can happen, and if you wait to take cover, it's too late."

Burks said after the tragedy, she developed a plan to keep her family safe in case another tornado hits the region. Whenever they hear a warning, the family rushes to the basement, which is already filled with provisions.

Freeman was the only fatality reported in Wood County during the storm that hit on September 16, 2010.