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Former war pilot battles tornado

After surviving World War II, former bomber pilot Arthur Weir figured he could handle any kind of attack. As he was driving his Cadillac along West Bay Drive in Largo, the tornado blew out all his windows.

"It sounded like I was back up at 30,000 feet and flak was coming through," said Weir, 71, of Belleair Beach. "If I hadn't ducked down, I wouldn't have a head."

Weir said he had lost the hearing in his left ear and had received some other minor injuries, but he didn't want to go to a hospital. "I'm not a sissy," he said.

Weir managed to wrestle his damaged car home, threading his way through downed power lines.

Quick thinking leads

to safe hiding places

When the tornado roared through Glenwood Mobile Home Park at 12501 Ulmerton Road on Saturday morning, residents took cover wherever they could find it.

George Pineau, 75, was in the kitchen. "I heard everything shifting, and I went in the living room corner and pulled a chair over. I got behind a big chair. The roof opened up, and my shed and part of the carport are gone."

Jim Sugden said, "I came here from Illinois, and we had tornadoes all around us and were never hit." He said he was across the street at Heritage Park but his wife opened the windows and doors and headed for the closet.

Harry Sandy, 78, and his wife, Erma, fell to the floor. He said they "laid there with everything on top of us for 10 to 15 minutes. We had to break through a window; we couldn't get out our front doors."

Edna Clouser said, "I was going to hide in the bathtub and I asked my husband if he wanted to get in there with me. They say you should (take shelter) in a bathtub."

Beware of unlicensed

contractors' services

LARGO _ Police are warning Largo homeowners with storm damage to beware of unlicensed, unbonded contractors who are on the prowl to perform repairs.

Some price-gouging also is occurring. In one instance Monday, officers stopped a man from Georgia who planned to charge a Largo woman $900 to remove a fallen tree, police Sgt. Don Holcomb said.

By Monday afternoon, officers had ordered about 70 people out of storm-ravaged areas because they were unlicensed, unbonded contractors. Some of them came from Georgia and South Carolina.

"We're having a real problem with people trying to contract for repairs," Holcomb said. "They're coming from out of state to try to drum up business."

Certain licenses, permits and insurance coverage are required by the city of Largo, the state and Pinellas County for contractors.

A special team of Largo officers and building department officials has been formed. Starting today, Holcomb said, the team will be going door to door with informational fliers for homeowners.

"That's all the team will be doing, checking for licenses and permits," he said. "Homeowners need to deal with people who are licensed and bonded or they'll find themselves in a worse situation than they're already in."

Skies were raining

foam and fiberglass

Residents of East Clearwater may have been the first _ except for the victims _ to realize that a tornado had struck the county. Saturday morning, many residents were drawn outdoors in the rain to watch chunks of debris falling from the sky.

Pieces of other people's homes and lives could be seen spiraling downward from high in the heavens. Big pieces of aluminum, wood, fiberglass and foam insulation rained down on neighborhoods bordering U.S. 19 north of the Pinellas Park mobile home parks hit by a tornado Saturday.

Soggy insulation stuck to automobiles, rooftops and lawns over a wide area stretching from Clearwater to Dunedin.Motorists had to navigate around chunks of wood and metal strewn in the streets after the storm passed.

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