April 8, 2006

Clean up starts after US tornadoes, 12 dead

By Pat Harris

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) - Emergency workers began
clearing debris and searching for survivors on Saturday after
tornadoes ripped through the southeastern United States,
killing 12 people and damaging hundreds of houses.

Nine people died in Tennessee's Sumner County on Friday
when a tornado hit a heavily populated area near the town of
Gallatin and another three people were killed in Warren County,
said Randy Harris of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.

He said 57 people had been injured in the storms, which
came less than a week after a series of tornadoes across the
central United States left 28 people dead, including 24 in west
Tennessee, where a huge twister obliterated homes in its path.

In Ashland City, about 30 miles west of Nashville,
electrician James Michael Crowder said he leaped inside his
office building when he saw the tornado coming.

"I made it just in time," he said. "I barely got inside and
when I looked back, I could see debris flying."

Cars were "tossed around" in Nashville's suburbs, said
Mayor Bill Purcell, although the city itself appeared to have
escaped severe damage.

Fifty-five national guardsmen were called in to relieve the
pressure on emergency workers and heavy machinery was being
used to shift tons of debris.

Harris estimated that at least 1,200 homes had been damaged
or destroyed. More than 12,000 homes were left without power.

The American Red Cross set up three emergency shelters in
Tennessee in anticipation that hundreds of people would need
temporary accommodation.

"I've been to a lot of tornadoes and hurricanes, but I've
never seen anything like that," said Jack Shock, a spokesman
for the Red Cross, who has toured affected areas since last
weekend's tornadoes.


One of the tornadoes on Friday carved a path of destruction
estimated at 10 miles long near Gallatin.

What had been stately brick homes were heavily damaged, and
rubble was strewn across upscale neighborhoods. Several people
were rescued after being trapped in their cars by storm debris.

Martha Hayes, a former emergency room nurse who lived near
Hendersonville, west of Gallatin, joined two doctors digging in
the debris of a home, only to find the couple inside had been
killed. "The sad part is that they were holding each other,"
she said.

In Warren County, authorities said some mobile homes were
destroyed and a truck overturned.

The winds knocked over walls at a community college in
Gallatin where some 200 students huddled inside a building as
the storm approached. Despite heavy damage to the campus, the
injuries were mostly minor cuts and bruises.

In Georgia, to the south, severe thunderstorms rolled
through the northern part of the state early on Saturday,
damaging homes and businesses in several metropolitan Atlanta
counties. Local television reports showed businesses that had
been leveled and trees that crashed into homes.

"We have a number of trees down, power lines down," said
Buzz Weiss, a spokesman for the Georgia Emergency Management
Agency. He said his office had no reports of deaths or serious

The National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center
reported 42 tornadoes were sighted on Friday in Tennessee,
Mississippi, Alabama, Indiana and Kentucky. The violent weather
grew out of a powerful storm system working its way across the