14 dead, one town 'gone' as tornados rip central US

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  • Saturday, March 3, 2012
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    Greg Cook hugs his dog Coco after finding her inside his destroyed home in the East Limestone, Ala. on Friday, March 2, 2012. A reported tornado destroyed several houses in northern Alabama as storms threatened more twisters across the region Friday .
    CHICAGO, March 3, 2012 (AFP) - At least fourteen people were killed and one small town was "gone" as more than six dozen tornados tore across the central United States on Friday, flattening homes and smashing schools and businesses.
    Trucks and trees were tossed aside like candy as deadly funnel clouds descended on five states.
    The images were surreal: a school bus smashed through a brick home, trucks thrown into lakes, stately brick homes reduced to rubble and wooden ones smashed into kindling, mobile homes flipped like tin cans.
    Fire stations, schools and jails were among the buildings torn apart and a rescue squad car in Kentucky was flipped over and trapped under live power lines.
    "I am constantly amazed by both the unpredictability and the ferocity of what Mother Nature can unleash when she chooses to," Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels told CNN.
    "We've learned to be pretty humble out here about the way in which we mere mortals can prepare no matter how hard we try."
    The latest wave of storms comes after a string of twisters killed 13 people earlier in the week.
    The National Weather Service had received 83 reports of tornados in eight states by Friday evening, bringing the week's total to 133, though not all were confirmed.
    More could be on their way as a "particularly dangerous" tornado watch was set to continue until early Saturday in four states in a massive storm that also carried golf-ball sized hail.
    Officials in Clark County, Indiana were scrambling to deal with widespread damage from the storm after roads were blocked by fallen trees and debris, and power and phone lines were knocked out. Luckily only one fatality was reported.
    "The reports on the telephone were that Marysville is gone," said Major Chuck Adams, the sheriff department spokesman, said of a small town near the Tennessee border.
    "I can't confirm any damage right there yet -- we're just trying to concentrate on the more populated areas and we've been inundated with calls."
    The high school in Henryville suffered "quite a bit of damage," but luckily all the children were evacuated safely and only minor injuries -- some cuts and scrapes -- were reported, Adams told AFP.
    Two more people were killed in the town of Holton, Indiana, a sheriff dispatcher told AFP.
    Six other people were killed in Jefferson and Scott counties, Indiana's department of homeland security said.
    Officials in Kentucky reported five other deaths as the governor called in the National Guard to help with search and rescue operations.
    Alabama's Madison county was also badly hit, with the weather service reporting "people trapped in rubble with injuries," houses destroyed, trees ripped from the ground a power lines down.
    Six injuries were reported after 100 homes were damaged in Cleveland, Tennessee, the weather service said, and injuries were also reported in the town of New Pekin, Indiana.
    This latest outbreak of twisters comes as people were still picking through rubble left behind by a series of twisters which struck six states on Tuesday and Wednesday.
    The town of Harrisburg, Illinois was the hardest hit after it was ripped apart by a deadly twister that stayed on the ground for miles Wednesday, killing at least six people and injuring more than 100.
    Some 545 people were killed by tornadoes in 2011, which was the deadliest tornado season since 1936 and the third worst on record, according to the national weather service.
    This year, the tornados seem to have come a bit early with the mild winter creating the right conditions for cold fronts to slam into warmer air.
    Peak tornado season in the southern states is usually March through May, and in the northern states late spring to early summer.


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