Sunday, Jul 24, 2016
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Tornado rips Indiana, Ky., killing at least 22

STEVE-AUTEN

Steve Auten hugs his mother, Shelly, after a tornado swept through Newburgh, Ind., early today.

CECELIA HANLEY / AP Enlarge

EVANSVILLE, Ind. A tornado with winds exceeding 158 mph ripped a path of destruction through western Kentucky and Indiana as residents slept early Sunday, reducing homes to splinters and leaving entire blocks of buildings in rubble. At least 22 people were killed and 200 others injured.

Rescuers who reached the hard-hit Eastbrook Mobile Home Park shortly after 2 a.m. found children wandering in the broken glass and debris, looking for their parents, as parents called out for missing children.

One child was pulled alive from the debris more than 12 hours after the storm hit. But searchers said they were uncovering more bodies than survivors - at least 17 victims in the mobile home park alone.

"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."

All around, broken tree limbs, chunks of insulation, furniture and children's toys littered the ground as rescuers listened for survivors and used forklifts to move crushed mobile homes and cars.

The tornado, the deadliest to hit Indiana since 1974, struck a horse racing track near Henderson, Ky., then crossed into Indiana.

"It was just a real loud roar. It didn't seem like it lasted over 45 seconds to a minute, then it was calm again," said Steve Gaiser, who lives near the Eastbrook Mobile Home Park in Evansville.

Five people were confirmed dead in neighboring Warrick County, east of Evansville, where the Ohio River city of Newburgh was hit.

Chad Bennett, assistant fire chief in Newburgh, told CNN that sirens sounded, but most people didn't hear them because it happened in the middle of the night.

Three members of a family - the mother, eight months' pregnant, her husband and their young son - were killed in their farmhouse near Degonia Springs, Warrick County Sheriff Marvin Heilman said. A teenage girl died near Boonville, and her father was critically injured, he said. No deaths were reported in Kentucky.

The tornado developed in a line of thunderstorms that rolled rapidly eastward across the Ohio Valley.

Ryan Presley, a weather service meteorologist in Paducah, Ky., said a single tornado touched down near Smith Mills in western Kentucky, jumped the river and cut a 15- to 20-mile swath through Indiana's Vanderburgh and Warrick counties.

The tornado appeared to be at least an F3 on the Fujita scale, which ranges from F0, the weakest, to F5, the strongest. An F3 has winds ranging from 158 mph to 206 mph, and the tornado that hit on Sunday may have been even stronger, Presley said.

Tim Martin, 42, was inside his parents' mobile home at Eastbrook when they heard the wind, and then the tornado picked up the home and shoved it into a neighbor's yard.

Martin and his parents escaped unharmed, but they heard several neighbors calling for help.

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

A nearby mobile home was overturned, and another had been obliterated.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com.

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