- The Washington Times - Monday, November 7, 2005

EVANSVILLE, Ind. — A tornado tore across western Kentucky and Indiana early yesterday, killing at least 22 persons as it cut through a mobile-home park and obliterated trailers and houses as residents slept.

The tornado, with winds of at least 158 mph, hit a horse-racing track near Henderson, Ky., then jumped into Indiana at about 2 a.m.

“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.

At least 17 persons were killed in the mobile-home park, said Eric Williams of the Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Department.

More people were thought to still be trapped in the debris, and National Guard units were called in to help with search-and-recovery efforts. At least 200 persons were injured during the storm.

“They were in trailer homes, homes that were just torn apart by the storm, so they’re just now getting in there trying to find people,” said Annie Groves, chief deputy coroner for Vanderburgh County. “It’s just terrible.”

Rescuers on the scene since 2 a.m. reported seeing children wandering around the area looking for their parents and parents searching for missing children. Children’s bicycles and other toys were strewn amid the debris of aluminum siding, mattresses, chairs and insulation.

Five other persons were confirmed dead in neighboring Warrick County, east of Evansville, where the Ohio River city of Newburgh was hit. No deaths were reported in Kentucky.

The storm reduced homes to splinters and scattered debris across the countryside. Entire blocks of buildings were nothing but rubble.

Indiana homeland security spokeswoman Pam Bright said about 100 of the 350 or so homes in the Evansville mobile-home park were destroyed, and 125 others there were damaged.

Larry and Christie Brown rode out the storm inside one mobile home.

“Man, it was more than words can say,” Mr. Brown said. “We opened the door, and there wasn’t anything sitting there.”

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

The tornado developed in a line of thunderstorms that rapidly rolled east across the Ohio Valley. The National Weather Service had posted severe thunderstorm warnings for sections of northern Ohio.

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 up to F5 for the strongest tornadoes. An F3 tornado has winds ranging from 158 mph to 206 mph, and the tornado that hit yesterday may have been even stronger, Mr. Presley said.

Warrick County Sheriff Marvin Heilman said the dead included a woman who was eight months’ pregnant, her husband and a young child in the rural town of Degonia Springs. A teenage girl also was killed near Boonville, and her father was critically injured, he said.

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

He and his parents escaped unharmed, but they heard several neighbors calling for help. A nearby mobile home was overturned, and another appeared to have been obliterated.

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

Mike Roeder, a spokesman for utility company Vectren, said 25,000 homes were without power yesterday. There also were reports of natural-gas leaks.

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