Okla. Tornado Stirs Memories of ’85 Twister

Newton Falls

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On May 31, 1985, Newton Falls looked a lot like Moore, Okla., after a powerful F-5 tornado destroyed much of the town, including part of the school.

Many of the buildings today are stamped with the year 1985 which is when they were rebuilt.

Newton Falls resident Judy Rockenfelder owns Home Oil and has lived in Newton Falls all her life. She said the Oklahoma tornado brings back memories of the tornado of 1985 and images of what her town used to look like.

“That’s where the high school was, the kids had to graduate from Lordstown,” Rockenfelder said. “That street there there was a post office, a bowling alley, a restaurant, a beauty shop. It was all gone, trees, cars on top of the buildings in front of them.”

There was no loss of life in Newton Falls from the 1985 twister, but nine people were killed in Niles and it leveled about 70 homes, a shopping plaza and skating rink, before it moved over into Pennsylvania.

Newton Falls Fire Chief Richard Bauman said early warnings played a part in making sure no one died in Newton Falls, and today’s system is even better.

Bauman said he knows what the town of Moore is about to go through as they try to rebuild.

“It could be years,” said Bauman. “There will be people coming from all over the country to assist, but it will be a long haul.”

And Rockenfelder said it’s important to have all the support you can get.

“You got good neighbors and that’s the best thing for you,” said Rockenfelder. “You just need all the support you can.”

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