Tiny town of Mellott hit hard by tornado

Nearly every building in the small town of Mellott was damaged by Sunday's storms.
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Residents of the small Fountain County town of Mellott in western Indiana spent the day picking up the pieces from Sunday's violent storms.

Fountain County Sheriff William Sanders said he didn't know "of any building not damaged" in the town of 195 people.

At least four homes were destroyed and numerous others damaged.

Caroline Ruhlander-Snow was one of the residents who lost everything when a tornado touched down Sunday afternoon.

Pointing to a pile of rubble that used to be the mobile home she and her boyfriend shared, Ruhlander-Snow said, "everything is gone, but we survived. My boyfriend saved my life. If it weren't for him, I wouldn't be here."

She says she was at one end of the home and he at another, when they heard a low rumbling noise grow louder and louder.

Ruhlander-Snow says, "And he stampeded down the hall and screamed there's a tornado, get down. I was really scared and wanted to run, but he grabbed me and pulled me in holding the bathroom door back and ceiling over my head."

The two crawled out of the rubble with barely a scratch. Sanders said it was the same for others caught in storm's path. No one was seriously hurt.

Across town Monday, a massive clean-up was underway. Residents had plenty of help from volunteers.

Justin Sandlin led a group of students.

"We have a lot of kids out of school today... it means so much to them (to be here.) We're going around helping, making sure people are out of their houses, getting things out, putting tarps up and plywood."

Carolyn Hancock was among those working to salvage what she could from her battered mobile home.

She says the tornado lifted it off its foundation, moving it some 25 feet. The new roof, which peeled off, was laid out in front. Inside, her home was in a shambles with furniture and appliances piled up and pressed against the walls.

Despite the devastation, despite losing nearly everything in mere seconds, Hanock found reasons to be thankful.

"That we got out alive," she said. "And that we've got a great God and He protected us."

Hancock, her sister and their mother fled in advance of the storm. She says they were driving to another sister's when the tornado hit.

"And we couldn't get out of the car," Hancock said. "so, we laid on the floor and prayed...all the way around, it's been rough, but we were protected by an almighty God and He's still with us."

Ruhlander also found reasons to smile, one was when a friend approached with a wet and wrinkled piece of paper.

"Oh my gosh!" she exclaimed. "You've found my birth certificate, thank you!"

Then staring at what used to be her home, she said, "we're very lucky to be alive. I don't know why we are (alive.) Look at all this. It was just crazy."

The American Red Cross has set up a shelter in Mellott for those whose homes were destroyed or are uninhabitable, but Sunday night, victims stayed with family or friends.

Sheriff Sanders noted several farmsteads, barns and outbuildings in the area were also heavily damaged. As of Monday afternoon, there was no damage estimate, but Homeland Security was helping with an assessment.