Violent storms lash South, Midwest;
2 killed

storm clouds

April 20, 1996
Web posted at: 6:50 p.m. EDT

From Correspondent Alan Duke

(CNN) -- Severe thunderstorms and tornadoes swept through the Southern states, Indiana, and Illinois Saturday, killing two people, damaging thousands of homes, and taking out power lines throughout the Midwest and the Ohio River Valley.

A heavy line of thunderstorms passed through the regions Friday night and early Saturday, only to be followed by another band of severe storms Saturday afternoon that spawned tornadoes and hail from Mississippi to Virginia.

Saturday's storms rapidly dumped several inches of rain throughout the Southern states. The threat of tornadoes remained Saturday for parts of Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, weather forecasters said.

20 tornadoes hit Illinois

A tornado ripped through Ogden, Illinois, around 10 p.m. EDT Friday night, damaging dozens of buildings, killing one person and injuring about a dozen others.

Mary McAndrew, a spokeswoman for the Red Cross, said more than 20 tornadoes hit the state Friday night, destroying more than 200 homes just in the city of Decatur. Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar visited the town Saturday.

"Five and a half years I've been governor, probably surveyed about eight communities hit by tornadoes that we've declared disaster areas," he said. "This is by far the worst."


Ogden also saw a tornado Friday night that damaged dozens of buildings. "It has basically leveled the majority of the town," said Lt. Paul Pope of the Champaign County Sheriff's Department. The tornado also injured about a dozen people and killed one woman.

The woman, 55-year-old Mary Lou Laird of LaPlata, Missouri, was a passenger in a tractor-trailer truck passing near Ogden. She was thrown from its cab into a field when the twister flipped the truck. Her husband suffered face and eye injuries.

Two tornadoes touched down in Salem, Illinois, Friday night, damaging at least 27 homes and 22 businesses and injuring seven people. The Marion County Fairgrounds suffered heavy damage; its stage was blown away and an exhibit hall was destroyed, said Emergency Management spokesman Matt Owens.

Owens also reported seeing a mobile home wrapped around a tree.

"I don't think I've seen this much damage throughout a state," McAndrew said. "They are very violent storms."

My whole house is torn apart.  My bedroom is laying across the street in the hills.  My whole house is gone.  --an Indiana resident

Gov. Edgar is asking for federal help to rebuild. The repair process began Saturday, with quick roof repairs, the start of rebuilding homes, and hauling off debris.

Also in the Midwest, five people were injured in an Indianapolis suburb when storms hit overnight. Earlier Friday, more than a dozen twisters were reported in Indiana, most of them in the central part of the state, some of them devastating.

Thirty-thousand people in the two states were without electricity, and thousands were compelled to seek refuge in emergency shelters.

Storms trample college campus

A tornado and high winds swept through the small town of Berea, Kentucky, without warning just before sunrise Saturday, causing heavy structural damage but no major injuries. Berea Mayor Clifford Kerby estimated 1,000 homes were damaged in his small town of 10,000 residents.

In one neighborhood of 100 homes, none escaped major damage, according to Kerby. He said the Berea College campus "looks like a war zone," with trees down, roofs damaged and windows shattered throughout the school.

The mayor said some looting has been reported and National Guard troops have been ordered into Berea, which is located about 50 miles south of Lexington, Kentucky.

Gas pumps at a service station were "bent over on the ground," he said. "The destruction's everywhere, and it's a shame because it was such a beautiful town."

Tornadoes kill one in Southern states

Northwest Alabama reported more storm activity than Mississippi, but Mississippi was the only southern state to report loss of life attributed to the sudden storms. A teen- ager died Saturday morning when a tree fell on his mobile home just south of Carrollton, Mississippi. A spokesman with the Carroll County Sheriff's Department said a tornado that briefly touched down blew down the tree.

In northwest Alabama, three tornadoes were spotted in the air in Colbert County, near Muscle Shoals. However, according to Scottsboro police, none touched down.

In Georgia, thunderstorms accompanied by hail were the order of the day. "We had heavy hail come through lasting five to 10 minutes," said Officer T.D. Rooney of the Smyrna, Georgia, Police Department. He said the hail was the size of marbles.

Similar storm activity was reported in Virginia. "We got one real bad storm with severe lightning, thunder and hail," said Gilbert Suitt with the Grayson County Sheriff's Department in Independence, Virginia. "Some were as big as a 50 cent piece."

Counties in the Nashville, Tennessee, area reported high winds and heavy rains, and scattered power outages were reported in Haywood and Gastonia, North Carolina, and their suburbs.

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