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Violent Storms Kill 7 in Tenn., Ohio

November 11, 2002

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CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ Devastating, tornado-laden storms ripped through Tennessee and Ohio on Sunday, killing at least seven people, trapping others in buildings and leaving thousands without power, authorities said.

The National Weather Service confirmed at least five tornadoes across middle and western Tennessee _ with wind speeds of up to 140 mph.

Two people were confirmed dead in northwestern Ohio’s Van Wert County, where a weather spotter saw at least four twisters, sheriff’s officials said. Two more were killed and one critically injured to the northeast in Putnam County when a mobile home overturned, said Sgt. Brad Nelson of the sheriff’s office.

The Van Wert County sheriff’s department reported that homes were destroyed, an undetermined number of people were trapped in their basements and a county hospital worker said several people were being treated.

``We’ve got a mess,″ said dispatcher Trena Bartz of the Van Wert post of the Ohio Highway Patrol.

The storms cut a 100-mile swath from Van Wert near the Indiana state line to Port Clinton along Lake Erie. Emergency officials in many northern Ohio counties reported widespread damage to barns, homes and businesses.

Brian Farris, of Van Wert, said he saw a tornado touch down just outside of the city and level a house.

``It pulled everything off, set it down, then threw it in a field,″ he said. ``It was on the ground at least a mile.″

Sgt. Jeff Blackmore said a tornado took out a row of small factories: ``They’re all gone.″

People fled their homes to seek shelter in the basement of a convenience store and in a high school.

``I looked up and this big pine tree was coming right at me,″ said Larry Longwell, who ran from his trailer to the store. ``It was just a rumble.″

In middle Tennessee, Steven Graves and his wife survived after wind rolled their Sumner County mobile home 50 feet.

``The trailer bounced over and I told my wife we ought to get in the closet, and before we could get out of bed it started rolling. I just can remember it rolling for what seemed like forever,″ he told WSMV-TV of Nashville.

``I could feel the trailer crumbling apart and I remember thinking I was going to die,″ said Graves, who suffered minor injuries. His wife was treated and released from a hospital.

In Montgomery County, about 40 miles northwest of Nashville, Dennis and Karen Louise Tooby were killed when a tornado blew their mobile home off its foundation and hurled it into an open field across the road, officials said. Their belongings were scattered across a half-mile.

Laqueeta Forsythe, 65, was killed when a tornado overturned her mobile home in Carroll County, about 100 miles west of Nashville, Sheriff Bendell Bartholomew said.

A Tipton County man was in fair condition after a flower shop on the Covington town square collapsed.

In western Tennessee, tornadoes damaged a dormitory at Union University in Jackson, several homes and a nursing home in Bells, 150 miles southwest of Nashville.

The storms cut a path similar to tornadoes that devastated Clarksville and Jackson in 1999, killing 10 people, injuring 110 and damaging or destroying more than 2,100 buildings.

Sunday afternoon, emergency workers braced for more damage as another system swept through the state. Parts of more than 60 counties in middle and western Tennessee were under tornado watches, and possible tornadoes were spotted on National Weather Service radar, but no damage was reported.

Two possible tornadoes also touched down Sunday in rural areas of southern Illinois, but no damage was reported, the weather service and local officials said.


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