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Kentucky Town Surveys Tornado Damage, Deep South Copes With Hail

May 11, 1988

Undated (AP) _ The National Guard helped enforce a curfew in a Kentucky town Tuesday night, a day after a tornado killed a woman and injured at least 15 people, while hail storms created icy havoc for motorists in the Deep South.

″We’ve got wrecks everywhere,″ said Vicki Griffith, a police dispatcher in Tallassee, about 20 miles northeast of Montgomery, Ala.

Thunderstorms also lashed West Virginia and North Carolina, where four funnel clouds were sighted, the National Weather Service reported.

Robyn Hearn, a spokesman for the Alabama Emergency Management Agency, said no storm-related damage was reported in Tallassee beyond car accidents and broken windshields. Large hail last month dented thousands of cars and trucks in Montgomery, prompting at least $30 million in insurance claims.

School officials in Tallassee and Wetumpka delayed the dismissal of students Tuesday afternoon to allow the storm to clear, Hearn said.

Tornado warnings were posted in those towns and two eastern Alabama counties but the sheriff’s departments said no funnel clouds were sighted.

The deadly tornado Monday night in Kentucky cut a 6-mile-long path of destruction through Middlesboro, a town of 11,000 near the Cumberland Gap just north of the Tennessee border.

″It just kind of hopped along the valley,″ Gov. Wallace Wilkinson said after a visit Tuesday, ″and it’s very obvious where it touched down.″

″You just can’t believe the kind of destruction we’re talking here,″ said Mayor Troy Welch. ″The city’s just buried. It’s a disaster, just a disaster.″

Joe Iovine, who watched bulldozers clearing debris Tuesday from a furniture store owned by his family since 1910, said, ″It was wiped out in 30 seconds. I get to talking about it and it chokes me up. I’ve had it.″

Wilkinson said a preliminary survey showed that 38 businesses and 26 homes suffered major damage, but that damage was not severe enough to warrant a federal disaster area designation.

Welch, estimating damage in the millions, declared an emergency shortly after midnight, and Wilkinson activated 30 National Guardsmen to help clean up, keep the peace and enforce an 8 p.m. curfew in the damaged business district.

Police Sgt. Jeff Sharpe said no arrests for looting had been made, contrary to earlier official reports.

At least four funnel clouds were sighted and reported as possible tornadoes in North Carolina on Tuesday, the weather service said. Two were along the coast, one near Jacksonville, which also had quarter-size hail, and the other just north of New Bern. The others were near Charlotte. Authorities reported no damage and no injuries.

Golfball-size hail broke tree limbs and caused other minor damage in coastal Bridgeton, N.C., said Stanley Kite, assistant emergency management coordinator in Craven County.

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