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Published: Monday, 2/18/2008

South gets tornadoes; North hit by blizzards

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Molino, Fla., residents survey damage after a suspected tornado roared through about midday yesterday. The severe weather in the South followed tornadoes earlier this month. Molino, Fla., residents survey damage after a suspected tornado roared through about midday yesterday. The severe weather in the South followed tornadoes earlier this month.
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PRATTVILLE, Ala. - Severe weather howled through much of the nation yesterday, producing damaging tornadoes in the South that injured nearly 30 people and treating winter-weary parts of the Midwest to freezing rain, snow, and flooding.

In Alabama, a tornado damaged or destroyed about 200 homes and businesses in Prattville, northwest of Montgomery, where Mayor Jim Byard said rescue crews searched for people trapped in the wreckage.

No fatalities were reported, but two people were critically injured, Fire Marshal Dallis Johnson said. Officials reported 27 people had minor injuries.

"It's very possible we may have more injuries," he said, saying that some trapped people had been rescued.

A 35-bed mobile hospital was set up outside a Kmart to treat victims with minor to moderate injuries so hospitals could take those with serious injuries, Dr. Steve Allen said.

Toppled utility poles and storm debris littered the area, about five miles off I-65.

Shelters opened at churches and school buses shuttled storm victims out of the stricken area to the city center.

David Shoupe, 18, assistant manager at Palm Beach Tan, said he and a co-worker barely made it into a laundry room before the roof fell in and the wind tossed shopping carts aloft.

"Soon as we turned the corner, the roof collapsed everywhere except the laundry room," Mr. Shoupe said.

About 9,000 homes and businesses lost power in Prattville after storms swept across the South, damaging homes elsewhere in Alabama and in the Florida Panhandle.

A tornado destroyed four homes in Florida's Escambia County with several others damaged, county and National Weather Service officials said. Across the Alabama border in that state's Escambia County two houses were destroyed by a possible tornado in rural Dixie, the weather service said.

The storm damaged some structures in Alabama's Covington County and toppled trees, said Jeremie Shaffer, assistant director of the county emergency management agency.

The weather service warned of tornado threats and winds of 70 mph as the storm system moved into Georgia.

The severe weather in the South comes on the heels of a tornado outbreak this month that killed more than 50 people in several states, including Alabama.

In the North, freezing rain and snow fell across the southern two-thirds of Wisconsin, still weary from a major snowstorm that stranded hundreds of motorists and snarled travel for days.

Numerous crashes were reported and authorities urged people to stay off roads. The weather service issued a blizzard warning for much of Iowa and Wisconsin, as well as flood warnings in parts of the two states.

The conditions forced shopping malls, libraries, and churches to close.

Heavy snow and slush closed Kansas City International Airport for almost six hours, the longest closure in its 35-year history, authorities said. Dozens of flights were canceled.



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