- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 12, 2002

MOSSY GROVE, Tenn. (AP) Searchers and dazed survivors went from one shattered home to another yesterday, picking through splintered lumber and torn sheet metal for any sign of the missing, after twisters and thunderstorms killed at least 35 persons in five states.

More than 70 reported tornadoes cut a path of destruction from Louisiana to Pennsylvania during the weekend and into yesterday. Sixteen deaths were reported in Tennessee, 12 in Alabama, five in Ohio and one each in Mississippi and Pennsylvania. More than 200 people were injured.

In Mossy Grove, seven persons were killed and at least 40 were still unaccounted for as of midafternoon yesterday.

The tiny community 40 miles west of Knoxville was nearly wiped off the map, with about a dozen of the 20 or so homes reduced to concrete foundations and piles of rubble a few feet high.

Daylight brought a picture of destruction. Clothes fluttered from tree limbs. Power lines dangled from poles. Cars lay crumpled after being tossed like toys. About the only sound was the bleating of a battery-operated smoke alarm buried deep in the rubble.

Searchers believed that most of the missing in and around Mossy Grove were safe and had been unable to get in touch with family members, said Steven Hamby, Morgan County director of emergency medical services. The storm knocked out telephone service and blocked roads.

Mr. Hamby said digging out could take weeks. "We're hoping that we're past the bad stuff," he said.

In Carbon Hill, Ala., 70 miles northwest of Birmingham, seven persons were killed by nighttime storms that sent giant hardwood trees crashing down on houses and mobile homes.

Sheryl Wakefield cowered in her concrete storm shelter and listened to a twister roar down the country road where her extended family lives in six homes. Her sister and niece were killed when their double-wide mobile home was thrown across the street. Its metal frame was twisted around a tree.

Dan McCarthy of the federal Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., said unseasonably warm weather Sunday in the 80s, followed by a cold front, made conditions ripe for the rash of twisters, some of which were estimated to be at least in the F-3 category, with winds ranging from 158 mph to 206 mph.

It was the nation's biggest swarm of tornadoes from a single weather system since more than 70 twisters some topping 300 mph killed 44 persons in Oklahoma and Kansas in May 1999.

Broadcast storm warnings preceded twisters in the most hard-hit areas. In Alabama, National Weather Service forecaster Ken Graham said 46 tornado warnings were issued in an 11½-hour period, and everywhere that had damage was under a tornado warning at the time.

The stormy weather continued into yesterday, with tornado warnings posted in Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia. Thousands lost power in the Carolinas, and storms thought to be tornadoes damaged homes in Louisiana and South Carolina.

In northwestern Ohio's farm country, two twisters split into four Sunday outside Van Wert, cutting a 100-mile swath of destruction.

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