Tornado kills 2, injures 30 in Tennessee

Four people in critical condition; Tornado injures 2 in Kentucky.

tornazo 248 88 ap (photo credit: )
tornazo 248 88 ap
(photo credit: )
A tornado killed a woman and her 9-week-old infant and also injured at least 30 Friday in central Tennessee as a line of storms lifted homes, ripped off roofs and dumped hail in the Southeast. Elsewhere, a tornado touched down in southwestern Kentucky, injuring two people and destroying homes. A possible tornado was reported in northeast Alabama. And large hail began falling in several North Carolina counties. Three dozen people were hurt in Rutherford County, Tennessee, four of them critically, in the aftermath of a storm system that killed three in western Arkansas a day earlier. "I think we're right in the middle of tornado alley these days," said Dan Goodwin of the Rutherford County Sheriff's Department. Dispatchers at the Rutherford County Emergency Management Agency said the area has been "heavily impacted" after several eyewitness reports of a tornado on the ground at about midday. In Murfreesboro, 50 kilometers southeast of Nashville, at least three dozen homes were destroyed. Andrew Piro, 23, who was on his way to work when the tornado struck, told the Knoxville News-Sentinel he came upon a man who said his brother's wife and child were missing. "Outside under the rubble, we found the wife," Piro said. "She was right beside the driveway, about 20 feet away from the house. She was under a bunch of wood, I guess part of the roof. We found the baby strapped into a car seat, about another 20 feet away under a tree. It broke my heart." Kori Bryant, in her mid-20s, and 9-week-old Olivia Bryant were identified as the dead. "They were found outside of the residence," rescue official Randy White said. "It looked like they were trying to get to the car. The infant was in a car seat." Joe Spencer, 23-year-old student, said he survived a direct hit on his house. "I was going to open the door to see what was going on and I looked straight at a tornado," Spencer said. He yelled at his brother to take shelter and ran to the bathroom. "The bathtub started shaking, and I just tried to grab hold to anything I could. I grabbed the nozzle and turned on the water," said Spencer who was shaken but uninjured. Friday afternoon, search teams fanned out across Murfreesboro, a city of about 100,500, looking for anyone trapped in homes. Clyde Atkinson, spokesman for the Murfreesboro Police Department, said he believes there were three to five touchdowns mostly in the northern and western parts of the city. A grocery store evacuated customers into a cooler until the storm passed. Roofs were ripped away from at least a dozen homes, and some trees were blown down. A bulldozer was clearing tree limbs and other debris from streets. Several homes were emblazoned with a spray-painted "c," indicating emergency crews had checked them. Thousands of utility customers lost power. In Kentucky, State Trooper Stu Recke said one person suffered a broken hip and leg while the other suffered a broken ankle. Both were taken to a hospital for treatment, Recke said. One of the homes destroyed belonged to Robert Huggins, 65, who said he, his son and two other men were working in his garage when the tornado hit. "We heard it coming," Huggins said. "We went to the garage door and it got louder and louder. It was like a freight train like everybody says." Huggins said his son told him to hit the ground when debris started flying, then his son and another man fell on top of him. "When we stood up, there wasn't anything left," he said. It only took about three minutes, he said, and his 2,500-square-foot home was gone. His daughter-in-law, who was inside the home, was thrown about 70 feet and was taken to the hospital. He said his 10-year-old grandson, who was also in the home, suffered only bruises. On Thursday night, a black funnel cloud descended on the western Arkansas hamlet of Mena, killing at least three, injuring 30 and destroying or damaging 600 homes. Polk County, Arkansas, Sheriff Mike Oglesby said search-and-rescue teams had combed through the city's downtown Friday and a neighborhood just west that sustained the brunt of the storm without finding any other victims. The sheriff said he had no reports of anyone else missing in the city of 5,700 in the Ouachita Mountains. An initial survey of the damage suggests the tornado packed winds of at least 136 mph, weather service forecaster John Robinson said Friday. In Oklahoma Friday, strong winds whipped a blaze that destroyed more than 50 homes that official said was intentionally set. An area near a wrecker service where the fire started Thursday is frequented by teenagers from a nearby high school and investigators were looking into the possibility that they might have set the blaze, Fire Marshal Jerry Lojka said. Authorities have not identified any suspects or determined a motive. The fire, one of several statewide driven by strong winds and fueled by dry grass and brush, engulfed homes throughout east Oklahoma County, including in Midwest City and Choctaw. So far, more than 100 houses had burned down in the state and 49 people were injured, the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management said. Fire investigators were still trying to determine what caused the other fires. At least three people were killed in Texas across the state lines where 100 kph winds diminished, allowing evacuated residents to return to neighborhoods with charred homes, blackened vegetation and ruined cars.