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Archive for Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Tornado death toll continues to climb

Body found as crews drain pond in ravaged mobile-home park

November 8, 2005

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— Crews began draining a pond next to a smashed mobile-home park in a search for bodies Monday after a twister ripped through Indiana and Kentucky and killed at least 22 people.

The tornado struck early Sunday with winds estimated at more than 200 mph, reducing houses to splinters and obliterating mobile homes.

At least 18 people died at the Eastbrook Mobile Home Park in Evansville, and four others were killed in neighboring Warrick County. Dozens remained hospitalized.

A list of about 200 people feared missing from the mobile home park had been accounted for by Monday night, said Vanderburgh County Sheriff Brad Ellsworth.

After turning over debris in the mobile home park and listening for signs of life in the ruins, searchers turned their attention to the drainage pond, where four bodies were found over the weekend.

Crews broke the pond's containment walls to lower the water level, finding one body around midday Monday, and began pumping out the rest of the water.

"It is the one spot in this area that we have not thoroughly searched because it is under water," said Eric Williams, Vanderburgh County chief deputy sheriff.

The death toll was put at 22 on Sunday, then was lowered to 21 early Monday. It was raised back to 22 with the discovery of the body in the pond.

State officials said nearly 600 homes in the two Indiana counties were destroyed or heavily damaged. Gov. Mitch Daniels declared a state of emergency and asked the federal government for disaster assistance.

Mary Heck walks by part of Sherri Hudson's house Monday after it was damage by a tornado in Newburgh, Ind. The tornado ripped across southwestern Indiana and northern Kentucky, killing at least 22 people, wrecking homes and knocking out power to thousands.

Mary Heck walks by part of Sherri Hudson's house Monday after it was damage by a tornado in Newburgh, Ind. The tornado ripped across southwestern Indiana and northern Kentucky, killing at least 22 people, wrecking homes and knocking out power to thousands.

The Federal Emergency Management agency has sent teams to the area, said FEMA spokeswoman Nicol Andrews.

Rick Kalishun spent the day at a hospital, where his 4-year-old son Trystan was recovering from a punctured lung he suffered when the tornado hit their mobile home.

After the tornado hit, "I was sitting on the couch looking at the sky," Kalishun said. "I saw the 60-inch TV from the front of the living room - it ended up on the recliner, just like someone laid it there screen face-up."

The tornado cut a swath of devastation at least 20 miles long and about a quarter-mile wide.

"God's eyes were on us. Possessions can be replaced, lives can't," said Keegan Krabtree, who was at a Red Cross shelter with deep scratches on his face, suffered when the tornado hit his mobile home. "There were a lot of lives lost in this one, and I pray for their families, because every minute I'm breathing, they're not."

The tornado's potency, its long path of destruction and the fact that it struck in the middle of the night were all unusual, said Dan McCarthy, the warning coordinator at the federal government's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla.

Although most people think of tornadoes as a spring event, McCarthy said the nation experiences a "second season" of tornadoes from mid-October through November, when weather conditions resemble those in the spring.

"That's what makes tornadoes so dangerous this time of the year - people just don't expect them. They expect them to happen in the spring and in the afternoon or evening, not at 2 in the morning in November," he said.

Indiana officials said emergency sirens sounded twice, but many in the mobile home park said they did not hear them.

The tornado tore off half the roof of Barbara Bullock's home in the town of Newburgh, a few miles from the mobile home park. Bullock, 52, said she and her husband woke up as the bedroom windows shattered.

Afterward, she put a wooden pumpkin with the words "We give thanks to God" in the blown-out window of her living room.

"Believe it or not, I just praise God for being alive," she said. "Everything else can be replaced."

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