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Strong winds damage Humane Society of Greater Akron barn

By jim Published: February 13, 2009

By Katie Byard and Kathy Antoniotti

Beacon Journal staff writers

Published on Friday, Feb 13, 2009

High winds were yet another blow to the Humane Society of Greater Akron — ripping off a large portion of a barn's roof.

The nonprofit group is already struggling with overcrowding and a tight budget in a sour economy.

The Boston Township shelter also was without power Thursday as were hundreds of thousands of electric customers across the state.

Society Executive Director Karen Conklin felt some relief around 2 p.m. when the power came back on.

''It was pitch black,'' she said.

During the outage, staff members and volunteers had to clean cages and feed the animals by flashlight.

Conklin had been worried that the lack of heat — due to the power outage — would freeze pipes, cutting off the animals' water supply.

By Thursday evening, about 40,000 FirstEnergy Corp. customers in northern Ohio were still without power. About 72,000 American Electric Power customers in Ohio were without electricity.

Winds reached 70 mph in some parts of Ohio on Wednesday.

In Green, wind gusts of up to 67 mph were to blame for uprooting a large oak tree that crashed through the roof of Robyn and Randall Booth's ranch-style home early Thursday.

''It sounded like a train, it was so loud,'' Robyn Booth said. ''It came within an inch of busting in the French doors of our bedroom.''

The tree destroyed the couple's deck and hot tub and left gaping holes in the roof, Robyn Booth said.

Repair costs

Conklin said the humane society will likely have to pay a deductible of $1,000 to $2,000 to repair the hole in the barn's roof that is about 40 feet by 20 feet wide.

That's a ''huge amount,'' she said, given lagging donations.

Conklin, staring up at the hole that revealed a gray sky, tried to find a bright spot in the situation.

''The good news for us is that this time last year, there were dogs up here,'' she said. ''They would have been terrified as that sheet metal ripped off the roof.''

About 130 dogs are housed in other parts of the red barn. Also, Conklin said, many volunteers have stepped up to ''foster'' 80 to 90 dogs, caring for them in their homes.

The shelter also is home to about 200 cats. They live in a two-story building attached to the barn.

The nonprofit group is struggling to raise about $2 million in cash. That's the amount financial advisers say is needed to finance the construction of a new shelter planned for Cochran Road in Cuyahoga Falls.

The 25,000-square-foot facility is expected to cost about $5 million.

The society has raised about $1.6 million in cash and pledged donations.

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