- The Washington Times - Friday, April 10, 2009

MURFREESBORO, TENN. (AP) - A reported tornado hit central Tennessee on Friday, injuring at least 13 people as a line of storms that killed three people a day earlier in western Arkansas crept into the South.

Dispatchers at the Rutherford County Emergency Management Agency say the area had been “heavily impacted” after several eyewitness reports of a tornado on the ground at about midday.

Elsewhere, a tornado touched down in southwestern Kentucky, injuring two people and destroying a mobile home.

Friday afternoon, search teams fanned out across Murfreesboro, population about 100,500, looking for anyone trapped in homes. Clyde Atkinson, spokesman for the Murfreesboro Police Department, said he believes there were three to five touchdowns mostly in the northern and western parts of the city.

A grocery store evacuated customers into a cooler until the storm passed.

At least a dozen homes had their roofs ripped away, and some trees were blown down. A bulldozer was clearing tree limbs and other debris from streets.

Several homes had a sprayed painted “c” indicating emergency crews had checked them.

Thousands of utility customers were without power.

On Thursday night, a black funnel cloud descended on the western Arkansas hamlet of Mena, killing at least three, injuring 30 and destroying or damaging 600 homes.

“This one popped out of nowhere,” said Polk County, Ark., Sheriff Mike Oglesby.

As daylight broke Friday in Mena, pink insulation hung like cherry blossoms from the sheared branches of century-old maples. The roof of a two-story home sat atop the rubble that once was the floors beneath it, a set of women’s clothes still hanging from a suspended closet rack.

Oglesby said search-and-rescue teams had combed through the city’s downtown and a neighborhood just west that sustained the brunt of the storm without finding any other victims. The sheriff said he had no reports of anyone else missing in the city of 5,700 in the Ouachita Mountains.

An initial survey of the damage suggests the tornado packed winds of at least 136 mph, weather service forecaster John Robinson said Friday.

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