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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Deadly Storms Hammer Alabama and Tennessee

Aired November 11, 2002 - 06:45   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Back now to our top story, breaking weather news. Alabama was on the receiving end of much of this overnight bad weather. As day breaks, we're getting more information about the extent of the devastation.
Let's see what reporter Dennis Washington of our affiliate WBRC TV in Walker County, Alabama can tell us. He's at Carbon Hill Elementary, which was heavily damaged last night, right?

DENNIS WASHINGTON, WBRC-TV REPORTER: Yes, it was, Heidi. You can take a look behind me here, this is what's left of the building, lots of windows blown out, lots of bricks blown over. Take a look at this sign right here. This is what's left of the sign in front of the building. It used to say Carbon Hill Elementary School, not much left of that. Just bricks and rubble left across much of the area.

And the damage is not confined to this one building. There was lots of damage around Walker County, Alabama. Carbon Hill is about an hour and a half northwest of Birmingham. Take a look at some of the video from last night, a very devastating situation, houses on fire in the town of Carbon Hill. The old town hall, the roof was completely blown off of that building.

At this point we're hearing at least nine fatalities in this one county, another fatality in Cherokee County, Alabama. More than 50 people possibly injured from this storm. And what's worse is all that was found during the night. Once daybreak hits here in the next 15 minutes, authorities are very hopeful that they will not find any more fatalities, but they're certainly worried about that situation.

One footnote on this story here at Carbon Hill Elementary School, the high school here in Carbon Hill was destroyed by fire back in August. The high school students were having to use this building as a temporary building plus some portable buildings that were brought in for their -- for their education. Now this building is heavily damaged by what appears to be a tornado. Certainly some very tough times for the people here in Carbon Hill -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Indeed. All right, Dennis Washington of WBRC TV, thank you very much.

At this hour it looks like one of the hardest hit areas in the deadly storms overnight is eastern Tennessee in Morgan County.

Joining us on the phone now is Cecil Whaley with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency in Nashville.

Good morning to you, Cecil, thanks for being here. Tell us what you know at this point.

CECIL WHALEY, TENNESSEE EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY: Well, Heidi, we've had seven confirmed deaths in Morgan County. The community of Mossy Grove, about a mile and a half wide and about a mile and a half long just completely devastated. We are having -- we've rushed response people there. And as of right now because of the power outages there and the lack of telephone communications inside the county, we've got about 46 people still missing. And it may be noon before we sift through the wreckage to be able to find more folks.

But at the same time that hit, just a few miles east -- west of there, we had Cumberland County hit with 4 dead and about 30 injured; and that has kind of been lost in the story. We're now up to 16 fatalities in the state with about 60 injuries transported and still about 45 to 46 people missing. So we've just been seven confirmed tornadoes touched down across the state.

COLLINS: Unbelievable. Well what will happen today now as daybreak comes? What is going to be the plan for obviously sifting through some of this damage and trying to locate these people?

WHALEY: Well we want to be very careful, especially in the area in Coffee County, Cumberland County and in especially the Mossy Grove community, which has just been wiped out, because there's a lot of debris on top of some of the victims. And we've transported a lot up there, but we know we've got a lot more missing and in the area. So we're -- it's kind of like the World Trade Center, they were very careful about going through those buildings and that's what we've got to do today.

COLLINS: All right. Cecil Whaley, with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency in Nashville, thanks so much for that update.

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