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Losses from tornadoes are put at $32-million

The body of an 80-year-old woman was found late Monday under a pile of twisted metal, bringing to four the number of people killed in the deadly tornadoes that ripped through mid-Pinellas County on Saturday.

Searchers found the body of Amelia Riehl, who lived at the Park Royale Mobile Home Village off 66th Street, about 10:30 p.m. 100 feet from the foundation of her home. They covered the body with a blanket, and a Pinellas Park fire official, Louis Sclafani, said the body matched Mrs. Riehl's description.

Her son Ken, who spent the day watching police comb the rubble with front-end loaders and specially trained dogs, had praise for the searchers.

"I can't thank you people enough," he told firefighters and police with tears in his eyes. "Can I do anything for you guys? I really appreciate it."

His father, 84-year-old William Riehl, remained hospitalized Monday for a heart condition and scratches covering his back.

A search dog first found one of Mrs. Riehl's tennis shoes in the debris. Police discovered the body about 10 feet from that spot.

The recovery of Mrs. Riehl's body marked a grim conclusion to a day in which the full fury of the tornadoes was revealed. Moving house-to-house Monday, officials put numbers on the devastation: 1,386 homes destroyed or damaged, at least $32-million in lost property.

"I was very surprised," said David Bilodeau, Pinellas County's emergency services director. "Traditionally tornadoes are much smaller and much weaker, especially in our area. Even though we knew right away that we had an unusual storm, I was surprised by the numbers."

The tornadoes did more than $22-million worth of damage in Pinellas Park and nearly $10-million in Largo, Bilodeau said.

Throughout the day, Red Cross and Pinellas County officials offered help for those left homeless. As early as today, Gov. Lawton Chiles could deem parts of Pinellas County a disaster area and ask President Bush for federal aid. That would make some owners of damaged homes and businesses eligible for grants or loans and enable local governments to be reimbursed for part of their cleanup costs.

Bush "is deeply concerned about the health and welfare of the people of Florida who have suffered as a result of the tornadoes and who have lost their homes and businesses," according to a White House press release late Monday. He "stands ready to provide federal assistance if circumstances warrant, upon a request from the governor."

Both Bush and Chiles were sharply criticized in Hurricane Andrew's aftermath for the slowness with which the federal government responded in South Florida.

The tornadoes' toll in Pinellas was extensive, according to reports collected by the county Monday:

Four people were confirmed dead and eight admitted to hospitals.

Emergency medical personnel answered 265 calls related to the tornadoes.

422 homes were destroyed and 327 had damage to more than half the structure. Another 637 homes had minor damage.

More than half the structures destroyed or damaged were mobile homes.

How many people were left homeless was unclear Monday.

"It would be very premature to put a number on that," said Jim York, head of the Red Cross' Upper Pinellas chapter. "It's going to be substantial."

Three shelters opened and closed Saturday after only 43 storm victims showed up and then left. Monday afternoon the Red Cross reopened a shelter at Chapel on the Hill, 12601 Park Blvd. in Seminole, for anyone whose home has been destroyed. York said some victims may have stayed at hotels initially and need shelter now.

The Salvation Army has two mobile feeding vehicles and the Red Cross five in the affected areas, with three more on the way, York said. So far, the Red Cross has served 1,188 meals to victims and volunteers.

For the county to qualify for federal disaster money, at least 25 of the destroyed homes must be without adequate insurance or five major employers must have suffered destruction of their businesses.

Federal workers surveying the area Monday found that many of the damaged homes are fully insured or are winter homes, which don't qualify for federal help, said Jay Eaker, spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Those who could be helped include the uninsured or under-insured. One federal grant available to the hardest-hit totals about $11,000.

"Although there may be very few who qualify for the federal assistance, those who need it ought to be able to get it," Bilodeau said.

In the Park Royale Mobile Home Village, a moving scene was played out Monday as police searched for Mrs. Riehl. A German shepherd led its trainer through twisted metal, shattered glass and jagged nails, trying to pick up Mrs. Riehl's scent. An English springer spaniel, also trained to find missing people, joined the search later in the day. The task was complicated by mounds of debris piled as high as 20 feet in some spots.

Searching through the rubble earlier in the day, Ken Riehl, 52, tried to piece together what had happened. He found family photographs, what appeared to be the couple's stove and even his father's medicine.

Earlier, he had talked to his father, who is being treated at Metropolitan General Hospital in Pinellas Park. The elder Riehl told his son the couple had been playing cards when the tornado hit.

They were trying to find a place to hide when two-by-fours started flying around and the stove was lifted into the air. "He thinks it hit Mom and knocked her out," Ken Riehl said.

Then, the mobile home _ and the couple with it _ apparently became airborne. William Riehl landed hundreds of feet away, where neighbors found him.

"I've resolved myself to whatever the situation is," Ken Riehl told reporters before his mother's body was found. Riehl, who flew down from his home in Long Island on Sunday, said: "I think she's in the debris."

One of the eight people hospitalized made progress Monday. Herbert Jahnke, 67, seriously injured during the tornado at his son's home at 6296 Falling Leaf Court in Pinellas Park, was upgraded from critical to satisfactory condition at Bayfront Medical Center, a spokeswoman said.

By the

numbers

4 dead

130 treated

8 hospitalized

Single family homes

59 destroyed

138 major damage

373 minor damage

Mobile homes

263 destroyed

189 major damage

246 minor damage

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