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Violent Storms Kill 8 in Tenn., Ohio

November 11, 2002

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CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ Devastating tornadoes ripped through Tennessee and Ohio on Sunday, killing at least eight people, trapping others in damaged buildings and leaving thousands without power, authorities said.

At least five tornadoes swept across middle and western Tennessee packing winds up to 140 mph, the National Weather Service said.

Five people were confirmed dead and at least 21 injured in rural northwestern Ohio, where a weather spotter saw at least four twisters hit Van Wert County.

To the northeast, in Putnam County, two people were killed and one critically injured when a mobile home overturned, said Sgt. Brad Nelson of the sheriff’s office. As the storm moved east, a house collapsed in Seneca County, killing one person inside and injuring two others.

Another person was killed when they were thrown from their car, authorities said.

Many homes were destroyed and an undetermined number of people were trapped in damaged buildings, the Van Wert County sheriff’s department said. A county hospital worker said several people were being treated.

``We’ve got a mess,″ said dispatcher Trena Bartz.

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 level a house just outside the city.

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

Firefighters had to cut through steel to reach a trapped worker in a collapsed building at an industrial park. A five-screen movie theater outside the city was destroyed, but managers evacuated the building when they learned the storm was coming.

``It could have been a real tragedy,″ Snyder said. ``We consider ourselves very lucky.″

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.″

About 21,000 American Electric Power customers were without power in central Ohio, the company said. Thousands more homes and businesses were out in northwest Ohio, FirstEnergy Corp. spokesman Mark Durbin said. He said restoration in some areas could take several days.

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, and 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.

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.

The storm system also caused damage in parts of Mississippi and Alabama, where tornadoes were also sighted.


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