November 6, 2005

Indiana tornado kills 18

By Carey Gillam

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - A powerful tornado tore
through southern Indiana and parts of Kentucky early on Sunday
killing at least 18 people and injuring more than 100, many of
whom were sleeping when the twister hit, officials said.

At least six people were confirmed dead in Warrick County
and at least 12 were killed in Vanderburgh County, according to
county officials. Hospitals reported taking in at least 160.

"We've had severe damage," said Newburgh Assistant Fire
chief Chad Bennett. "Homes were totally devastated. "People are
having to try to crawl out of their homes."

Officials said the death toll could climb as rescue workers
picked through rubble in house-to-house searches and scoured
farm fields.

At least two people were found dead in soybean fields in
Warrick County, according to the Newburgh fire department.

The Eastbrooke mobile home park in Evansville was one of
the places hardest hit when the storm struck well before dawn.
Many homes there were reduced to twisted piles of metal that
lay mixed with the remains of downed trees and other debris.

An apartment complex in nearby Warrick County was also hit
hard, with the top floors ripped off, said Vanderburgh County
Sheriff's office spokesman Lt. John Strange.

"It is pretty widespread damage," he said.

In Henderson County, Kentucky, the Ellis Park racetrack
also suffered major damage. The grandstand was ripped away,
several barns were damaged and horses were killed.

Some 21,000 people were left without power and officials
declared a local state of emergency as they scrambled to locate
and assist survivors and search for victims.


The unexpected funnel cloud hit at about 2 a.m. local time,
with little notice, touching down in Kentucky, then skipping
across the Ohio River into southern Indiana. Alarm sirens
sounded only about 10 minutes before the twister hit.

"Most people were asleep. They probably didn't hear the
sirens," Bennett said.

Televised images Sunday showed dazed survivors wandering
through battered neighborhoods, a scene familiar to U.S.
viewers of late. Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf coast in
August, devastating New Orleans and southern Mississippi,
followed by Hurricane Rita's strike near the border of
Louisiana and Texas in September, and Hurricane Wilma, which
caused widespread destruction in Florida last month.

The tornado left a path of destruction about 20 miles (32
km) long and three-quarters of a mile wide from northern
Kentucky across southern Indiana, officials said.

Such a severe tornado is rare in the U.S. Midwest in
November, according to the National Storm Prediction Center.
Peak tornado season is generally from April through June,
although Ohio was hit with a similarly deadly funnel cloud in
November 2002, according to Storm Prediction Center spokesman
Corey Mead.

Through September, killer tornadoes were reported in
Georgia, Arkansas, Wyoming, Wisconsin and Mississippi this
year, with a total of 10 dead in those storms.

On average tornadoes kill about 70 people annually in the
United States. The single deadliest tornado in U.S. history
killed 689 people in Missouri, Illinois and Indiana in March
1925, according to the storm prediction center.