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Monday, May 2, 2016

Clay County receives damage; several killed in southern Indiana

Monday, November 7, 2005

AP Photo/Evansville Courier & Press, Cecelia Hanley

Steve Auten hugs his mother, Sherry, after a tornado swept through Newburgh, Ind., early Sunday. Steve had been a mile and half away with friends when the storm hit and came looking for his parents just as they were looking for him. The tree in the Auten's front yard crashed through Steve's bedroom.

According to the Clay County Sheriff's Department, several trees were knocked down by the storm that roared through the county late Saturday night and early Sunday morning, but no injuries had been reported as of 7:40 a.m.

The wind continued to howl early Sunday morning, but weather maps showed the storm front had passed through most of Indiana and was approaching a line from Ohio through Tennessee and Kentucky.

Hoosiers in southern Indiana did not fare as well as those in West Central Indiana.

Rescuers scaled heaps of rubble to listen for survivors trapped in debris left by a tornado that ripped through communities in Indiana and Kentucky, killing 22 people.

The tornado, the deadliest to hit Indiana since 1974, struck a horse racing track near Henderson, Ky., then crossed into Indiana, triggering emergency sirens that many people fast asleep early Sunday did not hear.

At least 17 people, including three children, died at a mobile home park in Vanderburgh County and five others died in neighboring Warrick County, east of Evansville. More than 100 people were taken to hospitals.

"They were in trailer homes, homes that were just torn apart by the storm," Deputy Vanderburgh County Coroner Annie Groves said. "It's just terrible."

As darkness fell Sunday night, rescuers set up lights to continue searching Eastbrook Mobile Home Park. They roamed what had been yards or basements, holding flashlights and lifting debris to make sure no one was underneath.

Cranes lifted toppled mobile homes, and forklifts moved smashed cars into organized rows. Other heavy equipment rumbled through the debris as night fell and the air became crisp and cool.

All the dead were in Indiana. The youngest victim was a 2-year-old boy who was killed along with his 61-year-old grandmother, the coroner's office said.

Tim Martin, 42, said he and his parents were awakened by the wind, which lifted their mobile home and moved it halfway into the neighbor's yard.

They escaped unharmed, but he said they heard several neighbors calling for help. A neighboring mobile home was overturned, he said, and another appeared to have been destroyed.

"All I could see was debris," he said. "I thought it was a bad dream."

White vinyl siding was blown to a farmer's field next to the mobile home park and to the tree tops in the Angel Mounds State Historic Site across the street. Yellow insulation hung from branches like Spanish moss.

Although the possibility of finding survivors seemed to diminish as the day wore on, there were glimmers of hope. Firefighters were elated to find a child trapped, but alive, beneath part of a mobile home.

"That's what it's all about," said Perry Township fire Chief Jerry Bulger, holding back tears as he spoke of the child's rescue.

Indiana officials said the sirens sounded twice, but many in the mobile home park said they did not hear them. Emergency officials say the tornado warning sirens are loud enough to warn people who are outside but might not reach those tucked in bed.

"They're not really designed to wake people up in the middle of the night," said John Buckman, fire chief of German Township Fire Department in Vanderburgh County.

National Guard troops were called in to help with search-and-recovery efforts. Gov. Mitch Daniels toured Vanderburgh and Warrick counties Sunday to survey the damage.

Indiana homeland security spokeswoman Pam Bright said the tornado was the deadliest in Indiana since April 3, 1974, when an outbreak of several tornadoes killed 47 people and destroyed 2,069 homes.

Ryan Presley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said the tornado appears to have been an F3 on the Fujita scale, with winds ranging from 158 mph to 206 mph. The scale ranges from F0, the weakest, to F5, the strongest.

Marsha Tweedy broke into tears Sunday as she walked through the remains of the Warrick County farm house where her 28-year-old daughter, Cheryl Warren, died.

They found the roads blocked by authorities and later learned the storm had killed Warren -- a dental assistant who was eight months pregnant -- her 4-year-old son, Isaac, and her husband, Jeremy, a truck driver.

"They were a beautiful family," Tweedy said. "They didn't have much, but they enjoyed everything they had."

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