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181st Fighter Wing responding to tornado disaster

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

The Indiana National Guard is assisting in recovery efforts following the devastating tornado and direct line winds that swept through Vanderburgh and Warrick counties Sunday morning.

Under the direction of the governor, approximately 130 members of the Indiana National Guard were called to assist in these efforts. Members of the 1st Battalion, 163rd Field Artillery, based in Evansville, Ind., the 1st Battalion, 152nd Infantry Regiment, based in Jasper, Ind., and members of the 181st Fighter Wing, based in Terre Haute are among those called to serve. The soldiers and airmen are working to support state and local emergency management officials in moving household debris and helping to provide security for local communities.

These citizen soldiers will employ various military vehicles and equipment to assist in mobility and clearing efforts in afflicted areas. This includes the use of 5- ton trucks, Humvees, wrecker vehicles, lighting equipment and other items as needed.

Crews search pond

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) -- Barbara Bullock stood in her tattered yard, where piles of her belongings were strewn along with the remains of her house by a deadly tornado that slashed through Newburgh while she and her husband slept.

The storm, with winds that may have topped 200 mph, ripped the roof off of her house in the Ohio River town a few miles east of Evansville. After it passed, the 52-year-old woman placed 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 Monday. "Everything else can be replaced."

A few miles to the west, crews drained and searched a large drainage pond near the Eastbrook Mobile Home Park where four bodies were found Sunday. Authorities did not expect to finish draining the pond until early Tuesday morning, and residents likely would not be allowed to return to the area until after that.

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

Another body was found midday Monday in the pond, raising to 22 the death toll along a path of devastation at least 20 miles long and about a quarter-mile wide that the tornado carved through southern Indiana and Kentucky early Sunday.

Eighteen people died at the mobile home park on Evansville's southeast side, and four others were killed in neighboring Warrick County.

All 200 people on a list of those feared missing from the mobile home park had been accounted for by Monday night, said Sheriff Brad Ellsworth.

Authorities kept residents outside the mobile home park on Monday, allowing only rare exceptions such as when a couple returned to retrieve medication from their home.

Dozens remained hospitalized Monday as hundreds of survivors faced trying to recover without the homes they had made amid the Ohio River bottomlands.

State officials said nearly 600 homes in Vanderburgh and Warrick counties were destroyed or sustained major damage. Gov. Mitch Daniels declared a state of emergency for the area as he asked the federal government for disaster assistance.

The Federal Emergency Management agency has sent teams to the area to assess whether its assistance is needed, said FEMA spokeswoman Nicol Andrews.

"This could be any community. This could be any of us," said U.S. Senator Evan Bayh, D-Ind., who toured the area Monday.

"And that's why we have a government," Bayh said. "At a time like this, we have a right to expect our government to respond."

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