- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 8, 2006

GALLATIN, Tenn. (AP) — Emergency teams spray-painted damaged houses with “X” signs yesterday after checking them for bodies or survivors, and crews moved in dump trucks to haul away the wreckage piled up by tornadoes blamed for 12 deaths.

Bystanders were warned not to smoke because of leaking gas while police patrolled to ensure there was no looting.

Emergency officials implemented a dusk-to-dawn curfew for the worst-hit areas, and National Guard soldiers were brought in to patrol.

Tornadoes were spotted in about 10 Tennessee counties Friday, weather officials said. The worst damage appeared to be in Gallatin and other suburbs northeast of Nashville.

Steve Hurt and eight other persons survived by taking shelter in a fireproof room with concrete walls at Lee Electric Supply Co. in Gallatin.

“You could hear people yelling and screaming outside and the debris hitting the walls,” Mr. Hurt said. He said one of his co-workers was killed.

One of the tornadoes that hit the area chewed up a path 150 to 200 yards wide and at least 10 miles long, said Jimmy Templeton of the Sumner County Sheriff’s Department.

Nine persons were killed in Sumner County and three were killed in Warren County, about 65 miles southeast of Nashville, Tennessee Emergency Management Agency spokesman Randy Harris said. Hospitals admitted at least 60 persons with storm-related injuries.

Mr. Harris said a preliminary count showed that 700 to 900 homes in Sumner County and another 500 to 700 in Warren County were damaged or destroyed.

“I’m amazed we didn’t have more fatalities,” said Sonny Briggance, rescue chief for Sumner County’s emergency management agency. “Although the number is high, we are still very lucky.”

Gov. Phil Bredesen toured the destruction yesterday.

Last weekend, thunderstorms spinning out dozens of tornadoes killed 24 persons in western Tennessee and four others in Missouri and Illinois.

Nashville Electrical Service (NES) reported hundreds of electrical lines down and power outages affecting up to 16,000 customers, mostly in Goodlettsville. The number of customers blacked out was down to 1,100 yesterday, but some people might have to wait a week for their service to be restored, NES spokeswoman Laurie Parker said.

Later Friday and early yesterday, another line of severe thunderstorms rolled through Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. The National Weather Service said four tornadoes swept through Georgia. The twisters destroyed businesses, homes and at least one church in the Atlanta area and knocked out power to tens of thousands, authorities said.

Several people were injured in Alabama, two by falling trees, but no deaths were reported, officials said yesterday. A store was destroyed in Ohatchee, near Anniston, and homes and apartments were damaged in the Birmingham area. Storms also pounded southern West Virginia, leaving more than 16,000 customers without power, utilities said.

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