Community rallies around Geauga County family who lost barn in tornado

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barn raising workers
Amish workers put trusses up on the Taylor family's new pole barn July 20 after a June 13 tornado destroyed their barn. (Rachel Wagoner photo)

HUNTSBURG, Ohio — After a tornado destroyed their barn and damaged their home, the community came together to wrap the Taylor family in love.

That love came in the form of manual labor, helping the Taylors pick up the pieces, literally, in the immediate aftermath of the storm. It came in the form of dinners every night for two weeks, made by 4-H families.

“The power of this community is amazing,” Frank Taylor said.

It all culminated July 20 when about 45 Amish men from the surrounding area came together to build the Taylors’ new pole barn. 

Taylor said the day after the tornado, an Amish friend approached the family to ask how they could help. Getting a new barn up was a priority.

group pictures of girls
Frank and Amy Taylor have four daughters who participate in 4-H: Haylee, 10, Avery, 12, Leah, 5, and Brooke, 14. (submitted photo)

The family raises beef cattle and has about 40 head on the farm. Frank and Amy Taylor have four daughters — Brooke, 14; Avery, 12; Haylee, 10; and Leah, 5 — who also raise steers for 4-H.

Frank Taylor said he knew only about 20 of the men who were there putting up the barn on June 20. Others had just heeded the call for help.

The storm

The tornado hit in the afternoon of June 13, without even so much as a severe storm warning. Amy Taylor was home with her daughters when she noticed a walnut tree in their front yard begin to bend over in the wind.

She called her husband at 3:07 p.m. as she hurried the girls into the basement, but he was at work and didn’t answer.

“We went downstairs and the girls started praying,” Amy Taylor said.

When she called her husband back at 3:10 p.m., the storm had passed. 

The National Weather Service confirmed that an EF-0 tornado hit the area with a maximum wind speed, estimated at 84 mph. It traveled a length of .41 miles and covered a width of 75 yards.

tornado damage to barn
A tornado on June 13 tore apart the Taylor Farms livestock barn in Huntsburg, Ohio. Three cows were killed as a result of the storm. (submitted photo)

The aftermath

The pole barn that housed their cattle had been torn apart. Metal siding wrapped around treetops 100 yards away, and debris scattered through nearby woods and hay fields. 

The storm ripped the roof off their home.

“Fences were down,” Frank Taylor said. “Cattle were everywhere.”

The Taylors made some calls and soon there were 50 or 60 people on the farm ready to help however they could. 

A crew went to work trying to free the animals trapped in the collapsed barn, while others corralled loose cattle. Three cows died immediately, as a result of the storm.

An equipment barn was emptied to house the girls’ 4-H steers. A neighbor showed up with his trailer to move some cows to his and other farms until they could get a new barn built.

Courtney Munn, the girls’ 4-H beef adviser, said they showed up with plastic totes and helped pack up personal belongings from the house.

By the time it was dark, friends covered the opening in the roof to protect the valuables left inside the house, Frank Taylor said.

Picking up the pieces

After that first day, the help continued to pour in. The Taylor Farms Relief Fund was set up at Middlefield Bank to accept donations to help the family as they continued to put their lives back together.

The 4-H families coordinated to provide the Taylors with meals every night for two weeks.

“We wanted to make sure their needs were provided for, and they didn’t have to worry about the day-to-day living kind of things,” Munn said.

The pig shed that housed Brooke and Avery’s 4-H pigs was also destroyed in the storm. So two 4-H families paid for a new shed and delivered it to the farm, so the girls could keep up with their projects, Munn said.

Another 4-H family provided a portable toilet for people working at the home and barn, Munn said.

A spaghetti dinner benefiting the relief fund was held at the family’s church, First Congregational Church of Claridon.

“We just love them and want to take care of them as best we can,” Munn said. “That’s what we do.”

Raising spirits

Work started on the new barn around 8 a.m. July 20, after a rain storm soaked the area. The roof trusses were up by around 11 a.m. The project was finished by about 3:30 p.m., with just a few loose ends to tie up, Frank Taylor said.

Family and friends were in and out all day, stopping by to see the progress, drop off food and give well wishes.

A donated tent, tables and chairs were set up in the backyard. Amy Taylor’s uncle, Edward Stanton, and his stepdaughter, Stacey Kovacic, cooked burgers and hot dogs to feed the dozens of workers at lunchtime.

The Taylors are living with relatives in another home on the family farm, while they wait for the insurance company to figure out what can be done with their home. 

The waiting game has been frustrating, but having the barn up feels like progress, Amy Taylor said. It’s given them a renewed sense of hope.

“We’re incredibly grateful for everything,” she said. “It was amazing.”

(Reporter Rachel Wagoner can be contacted at 800-837-3419 or rachel@farmanddairy.com.)

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How to help

Donations to the Taylor Farms Relief Fund can be made at any Middlefield Bank location or by sending a check to the Middlefield Bank Main Branch office at P.O. Box 35, Middlefield, OH 44062.

Middlefield Bank has branches in Beachwood, Chardon, Cortland, Dublin, Garrettsville, Mantua, Middlefield, Newbury, Orwell, Powell, Solon, Sunbury, Twinsburg and Westerville.

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Rachel is a reporter with Farm and Dairy and a graduate of Clarion University of Pennsylvania. She married a fourth-generation beef and sheep farmer and settled down in her hometown in Beaver County. Before coming to Farm and Dairy, she worked at several daily and weekly newspapers throughout Western Pennsylvania covering everything from education and community news to police and courts.

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