- Associated Press - Friday, March 2, 2012

HARRISBURG, Ill. — Kera Wise picked through the fragments of her aunt and uncle’s tornado-ruined home with a determined hustle under clear skies that weather forecasters warned could again turn dark and dangerous.

Wise figured she had little time to waste Thursday as she stuffed photo albums and what few other items she could retrieve into plastic sacks, hell-bent on rounding up her aunt’s prized trove of Elvis paraphernalia and Beanie Babies. With daylight about to fade roughly the same time she would be forced out by a curfew in southern Illinois’ storm-savaged Harrisburg, she knew another dose of nasty weather could ruin whatever she couldn’t salvage immediately.

“You just keep thinking, ‘God, please don’t let there be another tornado,’” said Wise, 35, whose aunt and uncle remained hospitalized in neighboring Indiana, her uncle in bad shape from bleeding on the brain, a collapsed lung, torn spleen and broken ribs.

Such was the scramble in devastated portions of Harrisburg, the 9,000-resident town sacked by a twister about 5 a.m. Wednesday that killed six people, many of them in the neighborhood where Wise’s aunt and uncle live. The onslaught was part of a storm system that raked the Midwest and South, killing 13 people in four states.

Damaged communities tried to take advantage of the brief break in the weather Thursday, mindful of forecasts that severe storms were expected to roll through the region again sometime after midnight and linger into Friday.

The National Weather Service had warned that both regions would be slammed by a second wave of tornado activity before the weekend, but as dawn broke Friday it appeared Harrisburg had been spared any major overnight storms.

“It’s pretty quiet. There have been spits of rain, but that’s about it,” said Deanna Lindstrom at the National Weather Service’s Paducah, Ky., office.

Weather service meteorologist Jayson Wilson noted the unpredictability of severe storm systems and cautioned vigilance across the region.

“If anything happens it will be an isolated cell here and there,” Wilson said.

“If there’s a bull’s eye, it’s moved farther east, smack in the center of Kentucky and dipping into the center portion of Tennessee,” he said. “It’s a massive circle, but nowhere in that circle is southern Illinois,” which he said probably will see thunderstorms.

Chris Broyles at the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., warned there could be a “potentially significant tornado episode” in extreme southern Indiana, central Kentucky and north-central Tennessee. Boyle said the storms are expected to sprint across the country, reaching the Gulf Coast states by early evening.

The forecast in Harrisburg didn’t much matter to Amanda Patrick, who lost her home Wednesday in the same twister that killed her beloved neighbors across Brady Street, the neighborhood where most of the fatalities occurred.

“I don’t know what to tell you other than I take it one moment, one day at a time,” Patrick, 31, said a day after riding out the storm in the bathtub she barely was able to crawl into for shelter before the twister hit.

She considers herself blessed, having thought the sirens that wailed as the tornado barreled down on her neighborhood was actually part of her dream. She awakened just minutes before the tornado hit and hours later couldn’t stop sobbing over the neighbors she lost.

“I’m not crying as much now. I’m here right now, standing,” she said Thursday. “Now, I will get up every time I hear a siren.”

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