Twisters, thunderstorms kill as many as 23 in South
Mar. 02, 1997
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) _ Tornadoes and springlike thunderstorms swept across Arkansas on Saturday, flattening buildings, sweeping away mobile homes and flooding whole subdivisions. As many as 23 were killed and 200 injured.
Springlike storms also tore through Mississippi, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Ohio, killing up to seven people.
One person died and four others were missing in Ohio. A search suspended Saturday night because of darkness was expected to resume on Sunday.
``It's horrible. The whole downtown is gone,'' said Jeremy Cox, of hard-hit Arkadelphia in central Arkansas. At least 23 people were killed in the state, Gov Mike Huckabee said.
``There's one mobile home left standing out of I don't know how many, maybe about 60,'' Arkadelphia Police Chief Bob Johnson said. ``We lost count of the serious injuries at 19.''
Neal Wright, 11, heard sirens and alerted his deaf grandfather by making swirling motions with his hands. The two escaped before a tree fell on their house, demolishing it, said Sharon Wright, the boy's mother.
Hundreds of homes in the Little Rock area were damaged, and two hospitals were treating 80 people.
``This is as bad as I've seen it,'' said state police Lt. Robert Felcher.
Trailer park owner Bill Pruett, 53, said a twister crushed five trailers.
``It was like playing chess _ it would take one house and then leave one, it would take another one and then leave one,'' he said.
The storms pulled the roof off Leah Wooten's house in southwest Little Rock.
``I saw a big black cloud,'' she said. ``I started seeing everything flying around. I got into the bathtub and put a hamper over my head so glass wouldn't fly into my eyes, and within a minute, it was over.''
Heavy rain, strong wind and downed power lines was reported across Arkansas, said Ray Briggler, a spokesman for the state Office of Emergency Services.
As many as seven people were killed by storms in Mississippi, Kentucky, West Virginia and Ohio.
A tornado that struck Randolph, Miss., early Saturday destroyed four homes and damaged nearly a dozen other homes and businesses. Four people were hospitalized.
The twister killed 50-year-old Huey Totor, throwing his body 75 feet from his mobile home, said coroner Barry Moorman.
``Parts of the mobile home were scattered over a large area,'' he said. ``Just the metal frame was intact.''
By early Saturday afternoon, a record 7.5 inches of rain had fallen in Louisville, Ky., in 24 hours. Rescue workers pulled people from the roofs of cars stalled in as much as 6 feet of water and carried others out of flooded homes.
A woman was killed when she drove her van off an 80-foot cliff Friday night during heavy rain that severely reduced visibility, authorities said. The van was found Saturday in the rain-swollen Barren River in south-central Kentucky.
Another person died when a pickup truck ran off a bridge in western Kentucky, and a 13-year-old boy drowned when he was swept into a culvert just east of Louisville.
Hopkinsville, in southwestern Kentucky, received about 8 inches of rain and officials ran out of ``Road Closed'' signs. The weather also canceled a congressional hearing scheduled for Saturday in western Kentucky because the Air Force decided it was too dangerous to fly House members out of Washington.
Several people were reported missing along southern Ohio's Great Brush Creek, which was 8 feet above flood stage, and authorities searched the area with helicopters and boats. The body of a 16-year-old boy was found near the confluence of two creeks north of the Ohio River town of Rome.
``Some folks say their homes went on down stream _ mobile homes and the like,'' said Paul Hawelett, director of the Adams County Management Agency.
A woman's body was found in a flooded creek in western Tennessee several hours after high water swept her car off a bridge. A man riding with her was missing, but her son, initially listed as missing, later was found at home.
A teen-age girl died in western Tennessee when a tornado ripped through her home.
The storms also flooded valleys in southwestern West Virginia, forcing scattered evacuations, and a mudslide closed one highway.
``It came up so quickly,'' Phyllis Harvey said of the 3 1/2 feet water outside her home in Genoa.